Yuan Longping, China’s ‘father of hybrid rice’

Yuan Longping, China’s ‘father of hybrid rice’

Staff Reporter

2014-01-14

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Yuan Longping and his award-winning team at Changshanan Railway Station on Jan. 11, 2014. (Photo/CNS)

A team led by Yuan Longping, China’s “father of hybrid rice,” has won a national award for progress in science and technology for his work on two-line hybrid rice technology, reports our Chinese-language sister paper Want Daily.

The special prize was handed out in Beijing by the National Office for Science and Technology Awards on Jan. 10. The 83-year-old scientist, whose “brand” has been estimated by industry analysts to be worth more than 100 billion yuan (US$16.5 billion), says his wish is to be able to generate 1,000 kilograms of hybrid rice per mu — a Chinese unit of measurement equal to about 666 square meters — by 2015.Yuan has already decided to share his 1 million yuan (US$165,000) prize equally among his 50 research team members.

According to China’s state media, the two-line hybrid rice breeding system driven by Yuan is a technology pioneered by China and can develop high quality rice at 20 times the probability of three-line hybrids, and with better overall quality and volume.

Using the two-line hybrid system, China successfully achieved targets of 700kg, 800kg and 900kg of rice per mu in 2000, 2004 and 2012, respectively, with the fourth test in Sept. 2012 yielding 988kg per mu.

As at the end of 2012, the technology has been utilized in 499 million mu across 16 provinces, cities and autonomous regions in the country, producing 11.1 billion kilograms of grains valued at 27.2 billion yuan (US$4.5 billion).

Born in Beijing in 1930, Yuan moved around with his family throughout his youth before eventually graduating from Chongqing’s Southwest Agriculture Institute in 1953 and commencing his career as an academic at an agricultural school in south-central China’s Hunan province.

Following a series of natural disasters in the 1960s, Yuan decided to conduct research into the field of hybrid rice, leading to the discovery of a natural hybrid rice plant in 1964. To solve the problem of reproducing hybrid rice in mass quantities, Yuan theorized using naturally-mutated male-sterile rice to create reproductive hybrid rice species, which became his most important contribution to the technology.

Yuan would go on to achieve more breakthroughs in the field, such as crossbreeding rice with wild rice in the 1970s, eventually developing a type of hybrid that yielded 20% more per unit than that of common ones. More than 40 years later, as much as 50% of China’s total rice fields grow Yuan’s hybrid rice species and yield 60% of the rice production in the country.

To those who know him, Yuan is happiest when he is in the rice paddies with a cigarette in hand, observing his students — most of whom are national-level researchers — analyze rice breeds. Observers say he looks just like an ordinary old farmer and nothing like the wealthy scientist that he is.

Yuan has continued to defend genetically modified food, revealing that he is currently researching how to transform a certain gene of corn into rice, which would improve photosynthetic efficiency by 30% to 50% and increase output. He said he believes rice developed from this type of gene would safe for consumption as it is transformed from corn, though the procedure has not yet been successful.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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