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Father of hybrid rice announces its presence in Africa

Local Rice
Local Rice

In front of a bronze statue of Yuan Longping, scores of African visitors planted hybrid rice seedlings in memory of the “father of hybrid rice.”

The delegates to the Second Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Agriculture were visiting the Paddy Field National Park in Sanya, south China’s Hainan Province.

In the park, the foreign guests walked into the display fields of new hybrid rice varieties, observed the ripe and golden ears in the paddies, and watched the presentation of new technologies such as mechanized rice transplanting and drone sowing.

Many of them are not strangers to hybrid rice, as numerous hybrid rice varieties developed in China have produced bumper harvests for their countries’ farmers.

Four years ago, when attending the First Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Agriculture in Sanya, Yuan Longping expressed the hope that hybrid rice could be developed in various African countries and solve food security problems in Africa.

“I hope that our hybrid rice will play a role in improving the food security in African countries,” he said.

Today, his dream is coming true. With the efforts of many Chinese agricultural research institutions and agricultural enterprises, Chinese hybrid rice is now growing in more than 20 African countries.

The Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS), in cooperation with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has distributed more than 1,000 green super rice materials to nine African countries, with a cumulative planting area of 57,000 hectares and yields more than 20 percent higher than local varieties, according to Jin Ke, head of the Department of International Cooperation of CAAS.

In Burkina Faso, local rice varieties used to yield only two or three tonnes per hectare. After the introduction of hybrid rice from China, however, yield can reach more than 10 tonnes per hectare. In addition, dwarf rice varieties from China have a shorter growth cycle, improved taste and better disease resistance.

Gaoussou Sanou, secretary general of the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal and Fisheries Resources of Burkina Faso, said that thanks to the introduction of hybrid rice varieties, the country’s grain production has increased, and they have achieved “zero” grain imports.

“Chinese hybrid rice helps a lot in poverty reduction in Burkina Faso,” he said.

Meanwhile, some new and efficient cultivation techniques for hybrid rice are spreading quickly to Africa.

Li Ganghua, a professor at Nanjing Agricultural University, has traveled back and forth between China and Africa in recent years, allowing technologies such as “precise and quantitative rice cultivation” to take root in Africa. To his relief, rice production in some parts of Mozambique has more than tripled to 9,000 kilograms per hectare.

“I hope to spread China’s advanced agricultural technology and agricultural development concept, help African countries develop modern agriculture, train local agricultural technicians, and let Chinese rice technology take root in Africa,” Li said.

More innovative varieties are also arriving in Africa at a faster pace. For example, the team led by Hu Fengyi, a researcher at Yunnan University, has successfully cultivated perennial rice cultivars and commercialized them by crossing perennial wild species with annual cultivated species.

At the Second Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Agriculture, he introduced the latest updates on the progress of perennial rice in Africa.

His team has conducted experimental demonstration planting in Burundi, Malawi, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal and Uganda. The results showed that perennial rice can be planted and harvested continuously for seven seasons in these areas, which has potential application value.

Many African guests at the forum have expressed hope to strengthen cooperation with China in hybrid rice breeding, cultivation and processing.

“Yuan Longping is truly an icon of agriculture,” said Gaoussou Sanou. “He really did a wonderful job.”

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