APSA would like to express sincere and heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and associates of Professor Yuan Longping, who passed away in the southern Chinese city Changsha on Saturday (May 22). He would have turned 91 this September.
Born in 1930 in Beijing, Prof. Yuan Longping grew up during a tumultuous period; the young Yuan moved around the country with his family frequently, having lived and studied in many places, including in Hunan, Chongqing, Hankou and Nanjing.
After graduating in 1953 from the Southwest Agricultural College (now part of Southwest University), Yuan worked as an agriculture educator in Anjiang, Hunan Province.
Motivated to use his background in agriculture as a way to help the people who had suffered from a serious famine in the 1960s, Professor Longping came up with an idea for hybridizing rice to increase and improve yields.
In 1964, he found a natural hybrid rice plant that had many advantages over other varieties.
By 1973, he had cultivated a hybrid variety that yielded 20 per cent more per unit than other varieties.
The following year he successfully developed the technology to produce indica rice, putting China at the forefront of modern rice production and garnering the title, ‘Father of Hybrid Rice.’
In 1979 the technique for producing hybrid rice was introduced in the USA, and since then more than 20 countries have adopted hybrid rice.
He soon became a wealthy man of national and international fame, having won many domestic and international awards and is famous across China.
Among his prestigious accolades include the State Preeminent Science and Technology Award of China in 2000, the Wolf Prize in Agriculture and the World Food Prize in 2004, and, in 2019, he was bestowed with China’s highest order of honor -- the Medal of the Republic 共和国勋章.
Even into his later years, Professor Yuan was an active rice researcher, public speaker, and educator, highly committed and dedicated to his work and love for breeding.
Over this past decade, he has spearheaded continous work on the development of a number of ‘Super Rice’ varieties, some which promise yields 30 per cent higher than those of common OP varieties of rice.
In August 2015, the then-energetic 85-year-old Yuan hosted an APSA Hybrid Rice Study Tour delegation.
Professor Yuan told the delegation that it was good that international communication on hybrid rice was enhanced by such tours.
He showed delegates the new hybrid varieties he had eagerly been working on, and the APSA delegates were astonished and inspired by his vigor and passion.
Such attributes pushed his research and development forward and higher in the proceeding years as Prof. Yuan refused to be idle.
Prior to his hospitalization on April 7, he had been working diligently on important hybrid rice research in Sanya, Hainan.
Longping is survived by his wife of 57 years, Deng Zhe.
APSA and the Asia and Pacific seed industry are deeply saddened by this great loss, though are truly grateful for his passion, dedication and contributions to seed and breeding.