The father of hybrid rice
Yuan Longping (7 September 1930 - 22 May 2021)
Chinese agronomist Yuan Longping (7 September 1930 – 22 May 2021) developed the first varieties of the high-yield, hybrid rice that brought food security to multiple countries including China, which had been ravaged by food shortages as recently as the mid-20th century. Yuan began his pioneering research on hybrid rice in 1964 after a famine in China, leading to his team’s successful cultivation of the high-yield strain in 1973. The increased yield of hybrid rice helps to feed an extra 80 million people a year in China, and is currently grown in more than 60 countries around the world, providing a robust food source in areas at high risk of famine. For the rest of his career, Yuan researched and developed better rice varieties. At the time of his passing, he was developing varieties capable of growing in high salt and alkaline conditions. For his contributions to food security, Yuan—widely known as the “father of hybrid rice”—won the World Food Prize in 2004. The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs has called Yuan “a true food hero”. An asteroid was also named for him.