Rice companies puff up yield data

Some Chinese rice businesses have been cheating during yield trials in order to promote their varieties and obtain subsidies, reports Banyuetan, a subsidiary of Xinhua.

“In northern China, a business left wide space between rice plants during the sowing season, and transplanted the same varieties grown at the same time elsewhere into test plots shortly before harvest. This tactic results in more appealing yield data,” the report read.

Other ploys have included using freshwater to irrigate salt-tolerant rice, and including straw and leaves in rice “total biomass”, according to the report.

Chen Liyun, a professor at Hunan Agricultural University, told Banyuetan that some businesses spend a lot of money on creating excellent growing conditions, too expensive for farmers to recreate. “Many varieties achieved favourable yield data in trials but were ultimately abandoned by farmers,” Chen Liyun said. 

The Paper reports that businesses inflate yield data for the sake of marketing or to gain subsidies, but they are not the only problem. Certain experts work part-time within these companies to endorse experiments, from which they receive substantial consulting fees. Meanwhile, some local governments leverage the “high yield record” as a political achievement. 

“A grey chain of interests is formed,” The Paper states. It advises agricultural management departments to tighten up supervision and establish appropriate tech specs for crop trials. Records of experimental data, conditions, and results across the entire trial chain should be documented, minimising the potential for cheating.

“Yield measurement at crop trials should not only reflect the output data but also introduce the characteristics of varieties and planting techniques, enabling farmers to learn from the process and replicate it successfully,” Chen Liyun emphasised.

Read China Dialogue’s earlier report on Chinese rice farmers’ trials to cut methane emissions.