Hope from hybrid rice

Updated: 2011-09-21 07:54

(China Daily)

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A new strain of rice developed by China's leading agricultural scientist, Yuan Longping, has set another milestone in China's research into hybrid rice and constitutes a big step toward addressing the world's food shortages.

The strain, DH2525 (Y Two superior No 2), yielded a harvest of 926 kilograms per mu, or 13.9 tons a hectare, in a trial in Longhui county, Central China's Hunan province. This set a new world record.

Known as "The Father of Hybrid Rice," Yuan is famous for his achievement in developing the genetic materials and technologies essential for growing high-yield hybrid varieties. He developed the first hybrid rice in 1974, and it immediately increased grain output by 20 percent.

Yuan's pioneering research has helped transform China from a state of food deficiency to one of food security within three decades. The increased rice output gave the country the confidence that it could maintain its self-sufficiency in grain production and help reduce poverty worldwide. Since then, China has proven itself important in efforts to solve the global food shortage.

Yuan is not only dedicated to his research, but also passionate about spreading his achievements to foreign countries to help hungry populations and benefit the whole world. His hybrid rice has since been grown in dozens of countries in Africa, the Americas and Asia, and covered 3 million hectares by 2009, providing a robust food source in many areas at high risk of famine.

In 1979, his technique for growing hybrid rice was introduced to the United States, the first case of intellectual property rights transfer in the history of the new China. The hybrid has helped the US harvest 20 percent more rice.

Since the early 1960s, Yuan, now 81, has never stopped his research into developing better hybrid rice seeds. His continuing research offers even more promise for world food security and adequate nutrition for the world's poor.

Both in China and other countries, making super hybrid rice planting technologies widespread will take time due to diverse conditions and a shortage of agricultural professionals. Encouraged and supported by China's agricultural authorities, Yuan has trained more than 500 technicians from about 30 countries to master his techniques and cultivation methods.

If the planted area of his hybrid rice rises to cover about 50 percent of the world's rice fields, the overall output can increase by 150 million tons, enough to feed 400 million more people. Before the disadvantages of genetically modified plants are verified, Yuan's hybrid serves as a safe alternative.

As a scientist with a strong sense of responsibility to helping his country and all humanity overcome common difficulties, Yuan has set an outstanding example. While awarding him the World Food Prize in 2004, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization declared that Yuan's accomplishments and clear vision had helped create a more abundant food supply and, by improving food security, a more stable world.

(China Daily 09/21/2011 page8)