"Although he is in his eighties, he can work like a 40-year old."
This is how farmers in central China's Anhui Province describe Hu Chenglin, a professor at Anhui Agricultural University. Among the locals, Hu is better known by his nickname – "The farmer's professor."
Professor Hu Chenglin (1st left) examines wheat quality on a farmland with his students. [File photo]
Thanks to Hu's unyielding efforts in improving planting methods, overall wheat production in Anhui increased more than 3.9 billion kilograms from 2005 to 2010. In 2010, the provincial government gave Hu a special award for his significant contributions. Back in 2005, China suffered from a low grain harvest. Anhui was one of the areas hardest-hit by the shortage. The province's wheat production per mu (0.067 hectares or 666.67 sq m) was 10 kilograms lower than the national average. In April that year, the 76-year old Hu wrote a letter to the provincial government, recommending new planting methods to increase wheat production. He was later named as the deputy head of an expert group to pilot the methods. Since his appointment, he has trained over 2,800 people and delivered more than 80 lectures on planting techniques.
Luyang Village in Woyang County was the first location in Anhui to pilot Hu's methods. At the beginning, however, farmers were reluctant to make changes. Hu asked farmers to reduce the amount of seeds and fertilizer they put in soil, but the farmers held a firm belief in the old saying that "sowing more seeds in the spring will bring less regret in the fall." Then, Sun Dunming, a farmer in Wonan Village in Huaiyuan County, secretly sowed an extra five kilograms of seeds despite Hu's explanation and demonstration of new planting methods. During the harvest season, Sun was stunned to see those who followed Hu's instructions reaped 200 kilograms more wheat than him.
Facts speak louder than words. From then on, Hu won the trust of villagers.
In 2007, Hu invented a new machine which can perform several farming procedures at one time and precisely control fertilizer amounts. Hu's invention has helped farmers save more than 100 yuan in costs and increase harvests by tens of kilograms for every mu of land.
To monitor the growth of wheat, Hu spends most of his time in countryside. Over the past years, he has traveled to hundreds of towns in more than 30 counties in northern Anhui.
"I'm healthy, so I think I can work until my 90th birthday," Hu said. "I won't stop unless I am too sick to go on."