Renowned agronomist Yuan Longping dies at 90 . . .
Yuan Longping, the Chinese agronomist known for developing the world’s first hybrid rice varieties in the 1970s, passed away Saturday at 90. Yuan is a household name in China and is known as the “father of hybrid rice.” Having spent his professional life developing hybrid rice, Yuan continued to work until months before his death. He pioneered the development of the world’s first strain of hybrid rice that increased the country’s annual yield by 20 per cent, enough to feed 70 million people. These high-yield crops were instrumental in addressing the challenge of food shortages and famine that had long plagued China, greatly alleviating the country’s food insecurity and helping support its population growth.
Research on rice has profound impact beyond China . . .
Yuan and his research team also worked extensively with agricultural sectors in countries like India, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and the United States. The techniques they developed have been adopted widely across Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Americas, not only for rice but also for sorghum and rapeseed cultivation. His research breakthroughs helped to generate about 20 per cent of the world’s total rice production today. After upgrading hybrid rice to its third generation with record-breaking yields, Yuan began working on growing salt-resistant crops in diluted seawater earlier this year.
Overwhelming tributes to the ‘national hero’ . . .
Yuan’s death immediately spurred an outpouring of public mourning in China. Hundreds of thousands of people flocked to his funeral home, alma mater, and research centres to mourn him over the weekend, and more than 12 million viewers tuned in for the virtual memorial service. Pledging not to waste food, many also posted photos of their empty rice bowls to pay their respects to Yuan’s legacy. With China’s renewed attention on food security and Beijing’s emphasis on the importance of achieving self-reliance amid external uncertainties, its future strategies will be worth watching, especially with food crises worsening due to the current pandemic.