Rice yield trebles global average

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 September, 2011, 12:00am


A 'super rice' developed by hybrid rice breeder Yuan Longping has yielded a record 13.9 tonnes per hectare, more than triple the world average, agricultural experts said yesterday.

The latest achievement 'increases Chinese people's confidence that they can feed themselves on their own and provides technical support for ensuring China's food security', Yuan said at the Hunan Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

'This breakthrough means our hybrid rice [technology] is well ahead of other countries.'

According to the latest statistics by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, the world's average rice yield was about 4.3 tonnes per hectare in 2009.

The record yield was achieved on an experimental rice field divided into 18 plots in a village in Longhui county, Hunan .

Rice on three plots was harvested and taken to the academy on Sunday to assess the yield. One plot had been recommended by local growers while the other two were randomly selected by experts sent by the Ministry of Agriculture, Xinhua reported.

The average yield for the field was 927 kilograms per mu, or about 13.9 tonnes per hectare.

Yuan said yesterday that he had spent seven years researching and experimenting to raise the yield to more than 13.5 tonnes per hectare. Dubbed 'the father of hybrid rice', he and his research team achieved yields of 10.5 tonnes per hectare in 2000 and 12 tonnes per hectare in 2004.

He said improving rice yields was important because it was a staple food for more than half of the world's population and around 60 per cent of China's.

With an increasingly large population to feed, China has focused on boosting agricultural productivity because rapid industrialisation and urbanisation makes expanding farmland more difficult.

Fang Fuping, a researcher at the China National Rice Research Institute, said: 'China has a large population but a relatively small area of farmland. Using technology to boost productivity is a must for China to remain self-sufficient in food supply.'

However, the achievement did not immediately translate into a practical improvement in yield for farmers as their level of technological ability varied and the weather exerted an important influence on production, Fang said.

Yuan said such high yields could only be achieved when the grower had good seeds, a good way of producing rice and good quality farmland. 'Water and soil conditions in Longhui county are good,' he said.

Ping Zuoshan, a farmer in his 60s in Jianli county, Hubei, where rice is a major crop, said rice yields in his hometown in recent years were about 7.5 tonnes per hectare. Hybrid rice accounts for about 60 per cent of China's rice acreage and has been introduced to other countries in Asia, Africa and South America.