|Professor Yuan LongPing|
|Date of Birth:
|7 September 1930|
|Affiliations (at the time of the award):
|Professor, Director General of Hunan Hybrid Rice Research|
|Summary of body of work recognised by MSA:
|The 2011 Mahathir Science Award is awarded to Professor Yuan LongPing in recognition of his courage in independent thinking out of the norm in rice breeding resulting in the innovative development of hybrid rice, a staple food of the tropics that has revolutionized global rice production and sustainability.|
|Latest Biography/Profile of Organisation:||Professor Yuan LongPing, known as ‘Father of Hybrid Rice’ was born on 7 September 1930 in Beijing. In 1949, Professor Yuan completed his high school courses and entered South-western Agricultural College in Chongqing majoring in agronomy. This marked the beginning of his lifelong work in agriculture. Upon his graduation in 1953, he took a teaching job at the Anjiang Agricultural School in Hunan Province. He taught Russian, botany, crop cultivation, breeding and genetics. While teaching, he also conducted scientific experiments involving asexual crossings between crops, using the Russian theories, however realised the faults of the Russian models and sought to retool his methodology. By secretly reading Western magazines such as Crop Science, he managed to learn an approach to science that was different.
The disastrous famine in China from 1958 to 1961 led Professor Yuan to focus his research on the development of high-yielding rice. By then, he had given up his experiments on asexual crossing and begun using artificial hybridization to develop new rice varieties. Observing the results of hybridization in corn, he developed the novel idea of utilizing hybrids to increase rice yield.
In the 1960s, utilization of heterosis on a large-scale has seemed beyond the range of plant scientists for rice, a self-pollinated crop. By the early 1960s, many scientists believed that there was no heterosis for self-pollinated crops like rice and no solutions for high yielding hybrid seed production in self-pollinated crops. However, Professor Yuan took the unknown path into an area full of scepticism and made breakthrough, which made other scientists benefit from this discovery of new knowledge. When news of his work on rice hybrid reached the Western scientific circles, many were sceptical including the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Philippines, which had tried rice hybrid research before 1962 but eventually gave up. However, Professor Yuan introduced Chinese hybrid rice to the world in 1979 at an international conference sponsored by IRRI. The following year, IRRI restored its own hybrid rice research.
When the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution occurred in China from 1966-1976, intellectuals who dared to voice different opinions were branded as rightists and counterrevolutionaries, and faces being purged from their positions as many were sent to labor in farms in the countryside. Professor Yuan’s experimental seedlings were seized when some politicians were outraged when he added ‘time’ to Mao’s eight-word constitution on agriculture. He moved his research work from Hunan to Hainan Island and Yunnan Province. It was on Hainan Island in 1970, a natural male sterile wild-rice plant (wild rice with flowers containing no pollen) was found. This led to the promising discovery to rapid progress in the development of hybrid rice. Consequently in 1972, China’s State Science and Technology Commission listed hybrid rice as a key national research project.
Due to his hard work, China’s total rice output rose from 5.69 billion tons in 1950 to 19.47 billion tons in 2000. In recent years, hybrid rice has covered an area of 16millions ha, accounting for 57% of total rice area in China. The increased grains by planting hybrid rice can feed 70 million
His techniques for hybrid rice have been commercialised spreading throughout Asia and to Africa and the Americas including Vietnam, Philippines, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and USA, etc. In 2004, he came to Malaysia and shared his knowledge through lectures on rice hybridization. The Perlis Hybrid Rice Research Centre was established at the state of Perlis with Professor Yuan as chief consultant. His work as resulted in making rice production more sustainable by increasing the yield productivity well beyond the expectation.
Professor Yuan has published about 60 articles and his work has greatly influenced other research fields, such as Plant Sciences, Agriculture and Applied Biotechnology. In recognition of his work, he has received numerous award and honours, which include the 2000 National Supreme Scientific and Technological award, 2001 Raman Magsaysay Award for Government Service, the 2004 World Food Prize and the 2004 Wolf Prize in agriculture.