On Saturday, Mr Yuan Longping, one of the world’s famous rice breeders, died at the age of 90 in Changsha, China.
Mr Longping, a Chinese agronomist and plant scientist, developed a high-yielding hybrid rice variety that took many countries in Asia and Africa out of famine and poverty.
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The America Cable Network (CNN) reported that “Yuan devoted his life to developing rice strains that yield higher harvests after the Great Chinese Famine that killed millions between 1959 and 1961.”
Mr Longping’s research on rice made him a Chinese hero and “a symbol of dogged scientific pursuit in China,” according to New York Times.
His major groundbreaking research work on rice hybrid was published in 1971, and thereafter, developed other hybrid strains of rice using the wild rice from Hainan.
After the major breakthrough, he began to manage and supervise the cultivation of massive production of hybrid rice in China’s Southwest Province of Hunan in 1978, where he ended up doing most of his researches, choosing to specialise in crop genetics, according to media reports.
“Hybrid rice varieties typically produce 20 to 30 per cent more rice per acre than non-hybrid strains when cultivated with the same transplant techniques, fertiliser and water. But as Mr Yuan and his ever-growing teams of rice experts introduced hybrid strains across Asia and Africa, they also taught farmers a wide range of advanced rice-growing techniques that produced further gains,” the New York Times reported.
His life as a plant scientist and agronomist is worthy of emulation by Nigerian breeders at a time the country is increasingly facing food security threat and millions of farmers struggling with low yield varieties.
The Chinese breeder is today celebrated all over Asia and Africa for championing the success of the rice hybrid story that brought succour to millions of people.
Although funding research has been a major policy failure on the part of government, individual researchers can still do groundbreaking researches in their little world, which can save the country’s agriculture and millions, just like Mr Longping.