Su­per Rice

China Pictorial (English) - - Contents - Edited by Gong Haiy­ing

Grain has re­mained close to hu­man civ­i­liza­tion since the first peo­ple set­tled down to prac­tice farm­ing. Rice, one of the most eaten sta­ple foods in the world, feeds over half of the global in­hab­i­tants, in­clud­ing 60 per­cent of China’s pop­u­la­tion. As the world’s ear­li­est rice plant­ing coun­try, China has prac­ticed rice plan­ta­tion for nearly 7,000 years, and to­day rice ac­counts for nearly 50 per­cent of its to­tal grain crop out­put. Num­bers from the State Statis­tics Bureau show that in 2015, China pro­duced a to­tal of 208.25 mil­lion tons of rice, 193.1 mil­lion tons of which were con­sumed, and the coun­try im­ported 3.37 mil­lion tons from abroad.

The role of rice, the “great­est force” in grain, is im­por­tant to China and the whole world.

Breed­ing “Su­per Rice”

April 13, 2017 was a spe­cial day for rice. At the 1st In­ter­na­tional Fo­rum on Rice in Sanya, China, Yuan Long­ping, an aca­demi­cian of the Chi­nese Academy of Engi­neer­ing, an­nounced that Chi­nese rice was “ap­proach­ing the tar­get, at 90 per­cent, of pro­duc­ing 1,130 kilo­grams per mu or 17 tons per hectare.”

China started the re­search of breed­ing su­per-high yield rice in the mid-1980s, a pe­riod in which Guang­dong Academy of Agri­cul­tural Sciences, Shenyang Agri­cul­tural Univer­sity, and China Rice Re­search In­sti­tute all con­trib­uted en­cour­ag­ing work. In 1996, China’s Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture launched the Su­per Rice Breed­ing Pro­gram. A year later, un­der Yuan Long­ping’s guid­ance of “in­te­grat­ing mor­pho­log­i­cal im­prove­ment and het­ero­sis uti­liza­tion,” more than 20 sci­en­tific and tech­no­log­i­cal re­search in­sti­tu­tions joined hands to whisk the strate­gic process through four stages— 700kg/ mu, 800kg/ mu, 900kg/ mu, and 1,000kg/ mu— ac­com­plish­ing the tar­get six years ahead of sched­ule.

Data shows that the first-phase su­per rice re­sulted in an av­er­age yield of 550 kilo­grams per mu. Wide ap­pli­ca­tion of the sec­ond­phase made an av­er­age out­put of 600 kilo­grams per mu, and that of the third-phase pro­duced an av­er­age of 650 kilo­grams per mu. In 2015, Chi­nese su­per rice was grow­ing in a to­tal area of 960 mil­lion mu, play­ing an im­por­tant role in guar­an­tee­ing grain safety in the coun­try.

In­creas­ing rice yield has al­ways been a pop­u­lar sub­ject for in­ter­na­tional aca­demics. In 1981, Japan led the world in breed­ing re­search. In 1989, the In­ter­na­tional Rice Re­search In­sti­tute (IRRI), Asia’s largest in­ter­na­tional agri­cul­tural re­search in­sti­tu­tion based in the Philip­pines, launched a sim­i­lar re­search pro­gram, which re­sulted in high yields in a small ex­per­i­men­tal area in 1994. That devel­op­ment was dubbed “su­per rice” as it gained global at­ten­tion.

Some as­sumed that “su­per rice” was a new term for high-yield hy­brid rice, but it can be pro­duced as ei­ther con­ven­tional or hy­brid.

Since 2005, China’s Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture has pro­moted a pro­gram to breed a new va­ri­ety of “su­per rice” that can pass a se­ries of strict cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­ce­dures. By 2016, China had ap­plied 125 species of “su­per rice” in agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion, 45 per­cent of which was con­ven­tional and the rest hy­brid.

“Fa­ther of China’s Hy­brid Rice”

The suc­cess of China’s “su­per rice” is rem­i­nis­cent of the emer­gence of high-yield hy­brid rice.

The world’s first hy­brid rice was bred in In­done­sia by Amer­i­can sci­en­tist Henry Beachell. How­ever, China was the first coun­try to suc­cess­fully put hy­brid rice into large-scale pro­duc­tion, and that ef­fort would not have suc­ceeded with­out the ef­forts of Yuan Long­ping, dubbed the “Fa­ther of Hy­brid Rice in China.”

He is not only a widely-known name in China, but also a glob­ally in­flu­en­tial fig­ure.

Yuan be­gan hy­brid rice re­search in the 1960s. His team led the world in the breed­ing tech­niques and devel­op­ment strat­egy, which not only pro­duced high yields in wide ap­pli­ca­tion but also suc­ceeded in en­sur­ing China’s pop­u­la­tion stayed fed.

Yuan shared his tech­niques with his coun­ter­parts in the United States and In­dia and lec­tured in over 30 coun­tries and re­gions in Asia, Africa, and Latin Amer­ica.

On November 3, 1987, the UNESCO granted him the Sci­ence Prize of the year at its head­quar­ters in Paris, cit­ing his sci­en­tific and tech­no­log­i­cal achieve­ments as the “sec­ond green rev­o­lu­tion” af­ter semi-dwarf rice de­vel­oped in the early 1970s. In 2004, Yuan Long­ping took the World Food Prize for his out­stand­ing con­tri­bu­tion to pro­vid­ing nu­tri­tious, suf­fi­cient food to the mankind.

In April 2006, Yuan Long­ping was made a for­eign aca­demi­cian of the United States Na­tional Academy of Sciences.

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