Ancient strain of rice rediscovered in China

An article in China Daily excitedly touts the re-discovery of an ancient variety of rice known as Wannian rice. " It can reach 1.8 meters while ordinary rice grows less than 1 meter high.Also, there is no need for pesticides or chemical fertilizers since this 'heirloom' rice variety has proven resistant to insects and over centuries has adapted to low soil fertility.


  1. So, how’s the yield compared to the contemporary stuff?

    Ah, here we are: “The ancient rice produces 3 tons per hectare, compared to the average 9 tons per hectare for the ordinary rice varieties in one season, local figures show.”

    No wonder it can handle poor soil and does a bunch of extra non-grain growing…

    1. Thank you.  I was about to ask why, if the rice has all of the nice properties listed in the header, that it was discarded centuries ago.  1/3 of the yield (I assume this is because regular rice can be grown several times per season, while this ancient rice is probably takes much longer to mature) compared to other rice is a compelling reason to skip this over more conventional rice, even if they do require more care. 

      1. It might well have all sorts of neat tricks up its sleeve (because heirloom types weren’t developed with the luxury of cheap fertilizer and plenty of pesticides, they are often less feckless in various interesting ways than their more common counterparts); but it would be a major surprise to hear that yield is one of them.

        They made some assumptions that turned out to be less sustainable than anticipated (pathogens evolve resistance to agrochemicals faster than customers do, and Haber process nitrogen indexes the price of food to the price of natural gas); but the people who did the whole ‘green revolution’ thing, and their successors, Did Not aim to leave anything on the table when it comes to yields under the prescribed conditions.

    2. The height was the tip off: the green revolution in wheat came from developing shorter stalks that could carry the weight of heavier heads.  The height advantage for seed dispersion and competition in wild grasses can obviously be abandoned by sewn crops.

    3.  Yeah, this was kind of a foregone conclusion from ‘doesn’t need fertilizers’. Unless it’s some sort of freak rice that fixes its own nitrogen, there will be limits to how much you could grow without nitrogen supplementation; and even then, you’d just end up hitting other limits based on potassium or phosphorus. Crops take (fairly specific) stuff out of the soil; without fertilizer to replace it, you run out and can’t grow more plants.

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