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Father of hybrid rice keeps upping the ante
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Yuan Longping, known as the father of hybrid rice, is inching toward the finish line in a decade-long race to raise crop yield.

The race started in 1997, with the 700 kg per mu (0.066 hectare) and 800 kg targets realized in 2000 and 2004; before he set his sights on 900 kg.

"I hope hybrid rice with a per-mu yield of over 900 kg is grown nationwide by 2010," Yuan, 78, said at his experimental paddy field in Hainan Province.

The yield increase is vital to feeding the country's growing population, now at 1.3 billion and expected to reach 1.6 billion by 2030.

In recognition of his achievements, Yuan was on Wednesday chosen on CCTV's list of the Top 10 Annual Business Figures.

Yuan, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, did not show up at the awards ceremony, because he was too busy with his work in Hainan.

"Trial planting projects are also going on in 20 counties in Hunan. So far, 18 have yielded successful results," said Yuan, who has devoted himself to the development of hybrid rice since the 1960s.

Zhai Huqu, president of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, said hybrid rice was one of the biggest success stories in the country's agricultural history. It was first developed in the early 1970s, and has added 400 million tons in the following two and half decades.

Thanks to the progress in the research of high-yield rice, China's total yield hit 500 million tons last year although planting acreage dwindled.

Yuan's "super rice" is now grown in more than half of China's paddy fields as well as more than 20 other countries.

CCTV said Yuan's rice should be seen as the biggest made-in-China brand.

An earlier online poll showed that the majority of Chinese believe Yuan deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for his contribution to fighting hunger.

(China Daily February 1, 2008)


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