China’s Yuan Longping Dies; His Rice Research Helped Feed World

In this Oct. 15, 2017 photo, Yuan Longping, center, stands in a field of hybrid rice in Handan in northern China’s Hebei Province. Yuan, a scientist who developed higher-yield varieties of rice, died Saturday. (Chinatopix via AP)

TAIPEI, Taiwan—Yuan Longping, a Chinese scientist who developed higher-yield rice varieties that helped feed China’s people, died Saturday at a hospital in the southern city of Changsha, the Xinhua News agency reported. He was 91.

Yuan spent his life researching rice and was nicknamed “Father of Hybrid Rice” by Chinese media. Worldwide, a fifth of all rice now comes from species created by hybrid rice following Yuan’s breakthrough discoveries, according to the website of the World Food Prize, which he won in 2004.

It was in the 1970s that Yuan achieved the breakthroughs he was known for. He developed a hybrid strain of rice that recorded an annual yield 20 percent higher than existing varieties—meaning it could feed millions more people a year.

His work helped transform China from “food deficiency to food security” within three decades, according to the World Food Prize, which was created by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Norman Borlaug in 1986 to recognize scientists and others who have improved the quality and availability of food.

Yuan and his team worked with other countries to address issues of food security as well as malnutrition.

Even in his later years, Yuan continued doing research. In 2017, working with a Hunan agricultural school, he helped create a strain of low-cadmium indica rice for areas suffering from heavy metal pollution, reducing the amount of cadmium in rice by more than 90 percent.

By Huizhong Wu

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