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Hybrid rice has since been grown in dozens of countries in Africa, America, and Asia—providing a robust food source in high famine risk areas. For his contributions, Yuan is sometimes called "The Father of Hybrid Rice" by the Chinese media.
He graduated from the Southwest Agriculture Institute in 1953 and began his teaching career at an agriculture school in Anjiang, Hunan Province.
He came up with an idea for hybridizing rice in the 1960s, when a series of natural disasters and inappropriate policies had plunged China into an unprecedented famine that caused many deaths.
Since then, Yuan has devoted himself to the research and development of a better rice breed. In 1964, he happened to find a natural hybrid rice plant that had obvious advantages over others. Greatly encouraged, he began to study the elements of this particular type.
The biggest problem by then, was having no known method to reproduce hybrid rice in mass quantities, and that was what Yuan set out to solve. In 1964, Yuan created his theory of using the probably-existing naturally-mutated male-sterile rice individuals for the creation of reproductive hybrid rice species, and in two years he managed to find a few individuals of such male-sterile rice that he predicted could be used for his research. Subsequent experiments proved his theory feasible, which was his most important contribution on hybrid rice.
Yuan went on to solve more following problems. The first experimental hybrid rice species cultivated didn't show any significant advantage over common ones, so Yuan suggested crossbreeding rice with its further relative: the wild rice. In 1970, he found an important specie of wild rice that he needed for the creation of high-yield hybrid rice species. In 1973, in cooperation with others, he was finally able to establish a complete process of creating and reproducing high-yield hybrid rice species.
The next year they successfully cultivate a type of hybrid rice species which had great advantages. It yielded 20 percent more per unit than that of common ones, putting China in the lead worldwide in rice production. For this achievement, he was dubbed the "Father of Hybrid Rice."
At present, as many as 50 percent of China's total rice fields grow Yuan Longping’s hybrid rice species and yield 60 percent of the rice production in China. Due to Yuan's hard work, China's total rice output rose from 5.69 billion tons in 1950 to 19.47 billion tons last year, about 300 billion kilograms more have been produced over the last twenty years. The annual yield increase is enough to feed 60 million people.
The "Super Rice" Yuan is now working on has yields 30 percent higher than those of common rice. A record yield of 17,055 kilograms per hectare was registered in Yongsheng County in Yunnan Province in 1999.
In 1979, his technique for hybrid rice was introduced into the United States, the first case of intellectual property rights transfer in the history of new China.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization 1991 statistics show that 20 percent of the world's rice output came from 10 percent of the world's rice fields that grow hybrid rice.
Honors and awards
Four asteroids and a college in China have been named after him.
He is currently the Director-General of the China National Hybrid Rice R&D Center and has been appointed as Professor at Hunan Agricultural University, Changsha. He is a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, foreign associate of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (2006) and the 2006 CPPCC.
Yuan worked as the chief consultant for the FAO in 1991.
- The man who puts an end to hunger: Yuan Longping, “Father of Hybrid Rice”. Foreign Languages Press, Beijing 2007, ISBN 978-7-119-05109-3.
|World Food Prize
Modadugu Vijay Gupta