Today was the birthday in 1930 of an agronomist who helped countless people avoid famine and starvation: Yuan Longping, known as the “Father of Hybrid Rice.”
He grew up and began studying plants and crops at a time when war caused many people to go hungry.
In the 1950s, he was studying rice when he learned about a high-yield hybrid variety of corn, and thought, why couldn’t there be a high-yield hybrid rice too?
Development took years, and he faced some very serious and personally dangerous setbacks along the way.
But by 1973, Yuan Longping and his team had developed a hybrid with a yield 20 percent higher than traditional rice.
By some estimates, that meant China’s rice farmers could feed 70 million more people a year.
And there was more.
He developed rice that could better tolerate salt, and for areas that had heavy metal pollution, he worked on strains that contained less of those metals.
And he made sure to share those discoveries with the world, so that people in other countries could benefit, too.
He became well known in China, and in 2004 he won the World Food Prize for his work.
But Yuan Longping never lost his appreciation for individual plants, either.
As the Washington Post reported, he spent hours in the fields every day, and sometimes even took a break to play the violin in the fields.
If you spend any time around a school, you may see crossing guards helping students get where they need to go.
Newstead Country Preschool in New Zealand has a crossing guard, only theirs is a chicken named Henry.
She walks the grounds in a fluorescent safety vest, at least when it’s not raining too much, and she’s mostly paid in cheese.
I work mostly the same way, honestly.
Yuan Longping, whose hybrid rice helped feed the world, dies at 90 (Washington Post)