On May 22, “Father of Hybrid Rice,” Yuan Longping passed away in Changsha, Hunan, at the age of 91. Yuan’s groundbreaking work in high-yield hybrid rice helped alleviate hunger and poverty for many across Asia and Africa.
Rice is the primary food for half of the world’s population. According to Jahar Ali from the International Rice Research Institute, Yuan’s two significant discoveries in hybrid rice along with American botanist Norman Borlaug’s work on wheat brought a green revolution that greatly increased food production and ended famine in most parts of the world.
“If you are starving, you eat whatever you have, even grassroots and bark,” wrote Yuan in his memoirs, describing famine he witnessed. “At that time, I made up my mind to dedicate my life to increasing rice production and not letting the people suffer from starvation.”
After the 1970s, rather than using his contributions to lead one country’s dominance in global rice production, Yuan actively shared his major discoveries with scientists worldwide.
Data shows that around 60 countries and regions worldwide have carried out hybrid rice trial planting and promotion. Yuan’s team has cultivated more than 14,000 hybrid rice technical personnel for more than 80 developing countries. With an annual planting area of 7 million hectares in many countries, the yield for hybrid varieties is 20 percent higher than that of local breeds.
According to Xinhua News Agency, Yuan was still researching new rice varieties until the beginning of this year.
“Chinese scientist Yuan Longping saved millions from hunger by developing the first hybrid rice strains. His mission to end hunger lives on,” commented the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.