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China’s ‘father of hybrid rice’, who revolutionised agriculture, dies at 91

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Hsi discovery of Nan-you No. 2, led to an increase in China’s rice manufacturing from 5.69 billion tonnes in 1950 to 19.47 billion tonnes in 2000, for the primary time remodeling China right into a grain surplus nation.

Yuan Longping, a Chinese agricultural scientist whose breakthroughs in hybrid rice introduced meals safety to China and remodeled agriculture worldwide, died on Saturday aged 91.

Mr. Yuan, who is widely known in China because the “father of hybrid rice” for his contributions to agriculture and beloved for his easy manner that endured regardless of the various honours that got here his means, was nonetheless conducting analysis on the Sanya Hybrid Rice Research Base till he suffered a fall in March this yr.

In 2004, he was honoured with the World Food Prize “for his breakthrough achievement in developing the genetic materials and technologies essential for breeding high-yielding hybrid rice varieties”.

His “new hybrid rice technology not only benefited China, but was also enthusiastically adopted in other countries,” read the citation from the World Food Prize Foundation, noting that “he and his research associates traveled to India, Vietnam, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the United States to provide advice and consultation to rice research personnel” and trained over 3,000 scientists from more than 50 countries.

“Farmers world wide have benefitted from his methods as hybrid rice unfold all through Asia, Africa and the Americas,” the inspiration mentioned, including that “the impact of Yuan’s ingenuity has been felt beyond China’s rice industry” as producers of different crops “successfully used the two-line breeding system for rice to explore similar systems for hybrid sorghum and rapeseed with increased yields.”

Discovery borne out of hardship

Mr. Yuan’s desire to experiment with rice was borne out of hardship. In 1960, when he was 30 years old, China was in the midst of a famine unleashed by Mao Zedong’s “Great Leap Forward” policy in 1958 that devastated the agriculture sector and led to mass starvation and the deaths of millions.

“On a day in 1960, Yuan went outdoors of the college and got here throughout two scrawny corpses mendacity on the aspect of the road,” he as soon as advised State broadcaster CCTV. “The frames were so thin that they looked like skin being wrapped on skeletons. The scene deeply stirred Yuan, who felt that he must do something.”

Mr. Yuan told the channel, “Something as small as a grain can save a rustic, whereas it might probably additionally make a rustic fall.”

His experiments with rice went against conventional wisdom, as the World Food Prize Foundation noted, at a time when “classical genetics concluded that heterosis – a phenomenon wherein the progeny of two distinctly completely different mother and father develop quicker, yield extra, and resist stress higher than both dad or mum – was not attainable in self-pollinated crops reminiscent of rice.” He believed it was attainable with rice, and revealed his first findings in 1964. Nine years later, he developed “the first hybrid rice combination called Nan-you No. 2 which, due to heterosis, boasted yields 20% higher than previous varieties,” the foundation said.

China’s rice production “rose by 47.5% by the Nineties, whilst some 5 million hectares of erstwhile paddy land was shifted to money crops reminiscent of greens, fruits, cotton, and rapeseed,” mentioned the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation, which honoured him with a prize in 2001, including that “as much as half of China’s rice land is planted to Yuan’s hybrids.”

By 1976, China started producing Nan-you No.2. The nation’s whole rice output surged from 5.69 billion tonnes in 1950 to 19.47 billion tonnes in 2000, for the primary time remodeling China right into a grain surplus nation.

Mr. Yuan labored till his final. Until earlier this yr, he was researching within the island province of Hainan the cultivation of salt-alkali tolerant rice that might be grown in diluted seawater, Chinese State media reported.

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