Yuan Longping, the father of hybrid rice, develops a new variety in 2011

Yuan Longping, the father of hybrid rice, develops a new variety in 2011

Yuan Longping, the father of hybrid rice, develops a new variety in 2011

Yuan Longping, the father of hybrid rice. Image: File


Chinese scientist Yuan Longping (1930–2021), known as the “Father of hybrid rice”, is the most famous researcher on hybrid rice.

In the 60s, he made his seminal discovery of the genetic basis of heterosis in rice. This was a unique discovery because it had been previously thought that heterosis was not possible for self-pollinating crops such as rice. Longping developed a new hybrid rice in 2011 that can yield 13.9 tonnes/hectare.

Longping enjoyed worldwide respect due to his research work that helped rescue millions from hunger and starvation.

Legendary plant scientist breathed his last at the age of 92 on May 22, 2021. People from China and other countries, who had benefitted from his work, were all praise for the founder of Yuan Longping High Tech Agriculture Company.

Longping not only helped China achieve food self-sufficiency but his hybrid rice varieties have also impacted millions of people in other food-insecure countries.


On seeing people dying due to the worst famine during the late 50s and early 60s, Longping initiated research in agriculture to boost food security in China.

“Famished, you would eat whatever there was to eat, even grass and tree bark,” Longping wrote in his memoirs. “There was nothing in the field because hungry people took away all the edible things they can find. They even eat white clay at the very extreme.”

“At that time, I became even more determined to resolve the problem by increasing food production so that ordinary people would not starve,” he wrote.

Longping considered applying the inheritance rules onto sweet potatoes and wheat due to fast growth rate. As sweet potato was not a part of the daily diet and wheat didn’t grow well in Southern China, he turned his mind towards rice.

In 1973, he cultivated the first hybrid rice strain, which recorded a 20 per cent higher yield than the existing varieties. In 1979, his technique of the hybrid rice was introduced in the United States, which was also the first instance of the intellectual property rights transfer in the history of China.

Longping donated crucial rice strains to the International Rice Research Institute in 1980. These strains were used to create hybrid rice strains that could sustain and grow in tropical countries for helping their food supply chains.


The Chinese government bestowed him with the highest award and also selected him to carry the torch during the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.

In China, hybrid rice is estimated to be planted on more than 50 per cent of rice growing fields and it is credited with helping the country increase its annual rice yields, which are among the highest in Asia. Hybrid rice is also grown in many other rice producing countries, including Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Brazil and the US. A 2010 study published by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), reports that the profitability of hybrid rice in three Indian states varied from being equally profitable, as other rice to 34 per cent more profitable.

Outside China, other institutes are also researching hybrid rice, including the IRRI, which also coordinates the Hybrid Rice Development Consortium.

Shahzad Ali Malik, chief executive officer of Guard Agricultural Research and Services, and director Guard Group of Companies said: “Longping has largely contributed to increase the income of farmers and poverty alleviation in paddy growing areas, besides enhancing the rice exports of Pakistan.”

Malik has a decade-long association with the father of hybrid rice. The Yuan Longping High Tech Agriculture Company is a partner of the Guard Agricultural Research and Services. Dozens of Chinese scientists are working with the Guard to bring new rice varieties.

“I first met Longping in 1998. I visited China to sign an agreement with the Hunan Rice Research Institute. Meeting a person like him was a wonderful experience,” Malik said, while recalling a conversation with the legend.


Longping said, “Research is a time-taking and money-consuming process. It can take 7-10 years to bring a new seed variety. Even then there is no guarantee of its acceptance for commercial use. You still desire to do research.”

“Though the words were apparently discouraging but had given me the motivation to start research,” Malik said, adding that the Guard Group has collaborated later with the Yuan Longping High Tech Agriculture Company.

“We have imported and commercialised eight hybrid coarse rice varieties in Pakistan. Now we are marketing four hybrid varieties. The introduction of hybrid rice varieties has brought a revolution in Sindh and South Punjab. These seeds have doubled the income of growers, besides alleviating poverty in the paddy growing areas.

The exports of the hybrid coarse rice have increased considerably with the increase in production. We are also exporting hybrid rice seeds to the Philippines. Definitely, late Longping deserves credit for these revolutions in the lives of growers and increase in the exports of rice and seeds,” Malik said, adding that the overall export of rice had increased, despite a decline in the exports of the fine quality basmati variety.

“Before the introduction of hybrid varieties, revenue from rice exports was $700 million to $800 million. Despite a decline in the exports of basmati variety, the volume of rice exports is $2.04 billion,” Malik said, while attributing the increase in the rice exports to the work of legendary plant scientist Longping.

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