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Yuan Longping (1930–2021), created hybrid rice to ease famine

by Linnea Crowther

Yuan Longping was a Chinese plant scientist who created high-yield hybrid rice that helped alleviate famine in Asia and Africa.

The Father of Hybrid Rice

In the 1960s, as China was suffering a great famine, Yuan began working to develop a hybrid rice that would feed more people via higher yields. He made a key breakthrough that allowed hybrid rice to reproduce, making it widely available. But this hybrid rice didn’t yet have significantly higher yield than what was previously available. By the mid-1970s, Yuan had determined that introducing a strain of wild rice into the hybrid would increase its yield by 20 to 30 percent. As his hybrid rice became available for farmers to plant, it helped bring an end to the Chinese famine. Farmers in other countries began using Yuan’s rice as well, easing famines around the world. Yuan became a national hero in China, known as “The Father of Hybrid Rice.”

Notable quote

“Famished, you would eat whatever there was to eat, even grass roots and tree bark. At that time I became even more determined to solve the problem of how to increase food production so that ordinary people would not starve.” —from Yuan’s 2010 memoir

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Tributes to Yuan Longping

Full obituary: The New York Times

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