BEIJING (AP) -- China says it is launching a massive well drilling operation to save the crucial wheat crop stricken by the worst drought in decades.

The plan to drill 1,350 wells across eight northeastern provinces follows the announcement of plans to spend $1 billion to alleviate the drought.

China is the world's largest wheat growing nation. Expected shortages of the crop in China have already pushed up global prices for the commodity.

The government's Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters said Friday that as of Thursday afternoon, 17 million acres (6.75 million hectares) of crops had been affected by drought. Nearly 3 million people are short of drinking water.

China's wheat belt has gotten virtually no precipitation since October.

Copyright 2011 The AP.

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