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Hybrid rice crop falls short of super-sized target

Agricultural scientist Yuan Longping has failed in his latest attempt to set a record for hybrid rice production, according to state media.

The yields of a latest variety of a “super” hybrid strain developed by Yuan in Wugang, Hunan province, did not meet his target of 16 tonnes per hectare, according to specialists who measured the yield last week.

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Yuan’s record for the strain stands at an average of 15.4 tonnes per hectare, a benchmark he set in October 2014.

Yuan, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, began his pioneering work on hybrid rice in the 1970s, developing a super hybrid rice strain in 1996.

Super hybrid rice is a crossbred crop that originated in Japan and has higher yield, quality and resistance to disease than other varieties.

Output of Yuan’s crops surpassed 10 tonnes in 2000, 12 tonnes in 2004 and 14.8 tonnes in 2013.

This is his fifth attempt to meet a new yield target and the first time he has fallen short.

The failed attempt was the second test of Yuan’s new variety. A trial in Gejiu, Yunnan province, yielded 16.3 tonnes earlier in the month, Xinhua reported.

“However, [the Gejiu batch] benefitted somewhat from the area’s plateau … environment,” Yuan was quoted as saying.

He said the Hunan trial was more representative of average conditions because the country’s main rice growing region was in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River.

“But even if today’s result were successful, we couldn’t say the target was completely reached. I still plan to do another test on the North China Plain. Only if [the three test sites] all meet the target, can it be counted as a success,” Yuan said.

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The analysts who measured the yields in Hunan said the batch of super hybrid rice had the potential to generate 16 tonnes per hectare, but problems had occurred during several phases, including seedling transplantation, pest control, field management and harvest, which brought down output.