Minister of Climate Change announces breakthrough in UAE-Korea Rice Cultivation Research Programme

DUBAI, Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, announced the success of the pilot phase of a joint research programme between the UAE and the Republic of Korea, aimed at exploring the possibility of cultivating rice in the desert.

The announcement came during his interview with the Bloomberg news agency.

The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, MoCCAE, runs the project in partnership with the Rural Development Administration, RDA, of the Republic of Korea and the United Arab Emirates University, UAEU.

The pilot phase recorded a breakthrough in increasing crop productivity in challenging local conditions. Preliminary results indicate a yield of 763kg of rice per 1,000 square metres.

Dr. Al Zeyoudi said, “The innovative venture is the first endeavour of its kind in the Middle East. If successful on a large scale, this groundbreaking project has the potential to shape the future of agriculture, as it can be replicated in other arid regions. Rice is one of the most important foods that is consumed daily in this region. We are focusing on driving innovation and exploring agritech in growing the crops that are in high demand locally. We seek to make the most of our resources and find the crops and methods that are suitable for our desert climate. In this process, we are exploring and adopting more innovative solutions in every phase.”

He added, “We thank the RDA and the UAEU for this productive collaboration. The programme aligns with the ministry’s efforts to involve local universities in addressing pressing challenges in the agricultural sector. It will provide a baseline for other research programmes and undertakings related to food and agriculture, as well as a reference for researchers and students in the UAE.”

Dr. Al Zeyoudi noted that the project aims to support the country’s drive to secure local alternatives to imported produce to ensure an uninterrupted food supply chain, given the fluctuations in international trade caused by the current pandemic.

Kwon Yongwoo, Ambassador of the Republic to Korea to the UAE, said, “The Korean government and embassy are delighted that the cooperation of the two countries in the agricultural area has seen the first tangible success, especially during this difficult situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

He added, “Korea has long experience and cutting-edge technologies in the field of agriculture and food security, which it is ready to share with the UAE, Korea’s only Special Strategic Partner in the Middle East and Africa.”

Yongwoo expressed the intention of his government to continue to work closely with MoCCAE on the second phase of the programme, which will focus more intensively on water-saving technologies that are essential to ensure economic feasibility. Besides, the Korean government will cooperate with the UAE in other important areas of agriculture, such as smart greenhouse projects and control of date palm pests.

After extensive testing, the project experts selected Asemi (Japonica) and FL478 (Indica) rice varieties to grow because of their ability to tolerate heat, salinity, and poor soil conditions.

The project was conducted at the ministry’s research centre in Al Dhaid in the emirate of Sharjah, where seeds were sowed in November 2019, and harvested in three stages in May 2020 with a growing cycle of 180 days. To reduce the cost and the amount of water used for the crops, the project team installed an underground drip irrigation system.

The plot was divided into three blocks to facilitate monitoring and recording of results. The first block was harvested on 5th May, the second on 10th May, and the third on 30th May.

However, the harvested rice will only be put to commercial use after the completion of testing to ensure its compliance with standard specifications.

Source: Emirates News Agency

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