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New super rice possible by 2012

2010. 21 June

( Yuan Longping, known as the "father of hybrid rice," said yesterday that his team was working on a new version of high-yield hybrid rice and might complete it in 2012.

Yuan, director of the National Hybrid Rice Engineering Technology Research Center, made the remarks on the opening day of a Shanghai World Expo forum on science and technology in Wuxi, in east China's Jiangsu Province.

The new hybrid was expected to yield 13.5 tons of rice per hectare, Yuan said.The previous hybrid yields an average 9 tons per hectare.

China now plants 29 million hectares of rice per year, with an average output capacity of 6.3 tons per hectare. Hybrid rice accounts for about 57 percent of the total area, with an average output capacity of 7.2 tons per hectare.

"The average yield of hybrid rice is at least 20 percent more than that of inbred rice, feeding 70 million more people annually," Yuan said.

China is faced with a challenging grain situation this summer because of strong rainfalls in the south during the summer harvest season. Other problems include droughts in northern grain production areas and lingering low temperatures in the south.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, China needs to maintain an annual grain output of 500 million tons to feed its 1.3 billion people.

China's summer grain output rose six years in a row to top 123.35 million tons in 2009, 2.6 million tons more than the previous year.

"Hybrid rice will play a key role in ensuring food security worldwide in the new century," Yuan said. "If 50 percent of the world's rice paddies were planted with hybrids, rice production could be increased by another 150 million tons, and 400 to 500 million more people could be fed."