A farmer measures the height of his "giant rice" in Sanzhou village, Rongjiang, Guizhou province, on Sept 20. (YANG CHENGLI/FOR CHINA DAILY)
Shi Xichang has been planting rice in his village of Sanzhou in Guizhou province for decades, but his latest autumn harvest delivered a bit of a shock — his rice grew to over 2 meters for the very first time.
"This new variety of 'giant rice' that I grew reached 2.05 meters, the individual stalks were about 34 centimeters," Shi, 53, said.
Planting regular rice produces about 7.5 to 9 metric tons per hectare, but the production of giant rice is 1.5 times that, Shi said.
Zhaihao township, where Sanzhou is located, has over 1,000 hectares of rice fields.
This spring, in an effort to increase rice output, the local government experimented planting a new variety of rice in 0.26 hectares of rice fields.
Shi was one of the volunteers on the project. "Not everyone was willing to try because the yield was uncertain," he said.
Developed by the Institute of Subtropical Agriculture at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2017, the giant rice is a new rice variety with high productivity, according to the institute. It has taller stalks than ordinary rice, and greater resistance to pests and flooding.
"We introduced the giant rice variety from Hunan province in May and it grew very fast," said Ou Junzhi, director of the agricultural technology service center in Zhaihao township.
"The rice can also provide nutrients for aquatic animals."
On their quarter hectare, the farmers from Sanzhou village harvested 3.2 tons of giant rice this autumn, about 1.5 times the previous year.
In Sanzhou, most farmers are from the Dong ethnic group and they have a tradition of raising fish and bullfrogs in their rice fields.
Shi was delighted to see that not only did he get a bumper crop of rice, but his fish increased too.
"The giant rice provides shelter and increases the survival rate for aquatic animals as fewer chemicals are used," Xia Xinjie, chief researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told The Economic Daily.
Since its creation in 2017 in Hunan province, home of Yuan Longping, the father of hybrid rice, giant rice has been successfully planted across China including in the provinces of Sichuan, Heilongjiang, Guangdong, Fujian and Guizhou and in Tianjin municipality.
According to Wang Geng, Party secretary of Zhaihao township, the town is going to grow giant rice on over 66 hectares next year, including high-altitude land where ordinary rice struggles to grow.
"About 220 households will join the team next year, and we believe with this year's experience and technological support, the prospects are good," said Wang.