SLU news

Chinese investment in climate-friendly rice from SLU

Published: 14 June 2017

Today, Wednesday, an agreement was signed by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) and a Chinese investor, Mr Zheng Fang, through his company Beijing Xianhe Transportation Technology. The agreement deals with a project to further develop the research findings made by SLU researchers Chuanxin Sun and Anna Schnürer about a new, more climate-friendly type of rice.

The agreement was signed in the presence of, among others, the Chinese Embassy's Science and Technology Counsellor, Gang Dai, Pro Vice-Chancellor of SLU Erik Fahlbeck and Dean of the Faculty of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences at SLU, Torleif Härd.

When growing rice, large quantities of methane are produced and emitted to the atmosphere because microorganisms that form methane thrive in the low-oxygen environment surrounding roots of rice. Rice is planted in water where microorganisms absorb carbon compounds secreted from roots of rice and convert them to methane. Methane is an important greenhouse gas that is estimated to account for one fifth of the global warming caused by humans.

Now the researchers have managed to reduce the amount of methane that is emitted from rice paddies, by allocating less amount of carbon to the root system of the rice in relation to the amount of carbon in stems and reproductive organs. The rice has been added a gene from barley that affects starch storage and causes the plants to produce more biomass in the above-ground tissues than the roots. Thus the rice reduces exudates of carbon compounds to the surrounding root environment, which in turn limits growth of the microorganisms living in the low oxygen environment around the roots of the rice to produce less methane.

The climate-friendly rice became widely recognized internationally when the research results were presented almost two years ago, and was featured by the magazine Popular Science as one of the 2015's top innovations.

"Climate change and food security require future crops with higher yields but lower environmental impact. Rice is one of the humanity's most important staple foods, but today's rice production results in methane production of about 100 million tonnes per year, an equivalent to the carbon dioxide emissions from 250 million cars", says Chuanxin Sun.

"In 2015 we were able to present a rice variety that emits 90 percent less methane and yields a 10 percent higher yield", continues Sun.

Beijing Xianhe Transportation Technology now invests 50 percent of the project cost to produce a new kind of rice for global rice cultivation, based on the SLU researchers´ results, and the rest is funded by Formas, TC4F/Vinnova and SLU, among others.

Read more about the climate friendly rice:


Chuanxin Sun,, tel 018-67 32 52

Anna Schnürer,, tel 018-67 32 88, 0734-23 15 17

SLU researchers Anna Schnürer and Chuanxin Sun. Photo: Mårten Granert