SHANGHAI — Yuan Longping, a Chinese plant scientist whose breakthroughs in developing high-yield hybrid strains of rice helped to alleviate famine and poverty across much of Asia and Africa, died on Saturday in Changsha, China. He was 90.
The cause was multiple organ failure, China’s main state-run newspaper, People’s Daily, reported. An earlier report from an official news service in Hunan Province, of which Changsha is the capital, said Mr. Yuan had been increasingly unwell since a fall in March during a visit to a rice-breeding research site.
Mr. Yuan’s research made him a national hero and a symbol of dogged scientific pursuit in China. His death triggered messages of grief across the country, where Mr. Yuan — slight, elfin-featured and wizened in old age — was a celebrity. Hundreds left flowers at the funeral home where his body was being kept.
Mr. Yuan made two major discoveries in hybrid rice cultivation, said Jauhar Ali, the senior scientist for hybrid rice breeding at the International Rice Research Institute in Los Baños, the Philippines. Those discoveries, in the early 1970s — together with breakthroughs in wheat cultivation in the ’50s and ’60s by Norman Borlaug, an American plant scientist — helped create the Green Revolution of steeply rising harvests and an end to famine in most of the world.
By 1970, Mr. Yuan was growing frustrated with his halting progress in creating more productive rice crops. He hit upon a shift in strategy: Search for wild varieties across remote areas of China for more promising genetic material.
A breakthrough came when Mr. Yuan’s
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