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Xi's visit boosts confidence of agri-workers

By MA ZHIPING in Haikou | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-04-18


Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, inspects the city of Sanya, South China's Hainan province on April 10. [Photo/Xinhua]

Country's food security can only be achieved when seed resources tightly held, president says

President Xi Jinping reiterated the importance of the seed industry during a visit to a seed lab in Sanya, Hainan province, on April 10, and his visit boosted the confidence of workers on new innovations in the sector, agricultural scientists said.

Seeds are key to national food security, and China's food security can only be achieved when seed resources are tightly held in Chinese hands, said Xi, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, at the Yazhou Bay Seed Laboratory.

He urged efforts to focus on making breakthroughs when it comes to ensuring food security and securing the supply of important agricultural produce. Efforts must be made to realize self-reliance in seed technology and make sure that sources of seeds are under control.

Xi approved of Hainan's efforts in exploring innovation in agricultural science and technology to support and guarantee national food security.

Scientists at the Nanfan Scientific and Research Breeding Base in the Yazhou Bay area, where the seed lab was established in May 2021, said the Chinese leader's visit will encourage them to pass on the spirit of Chinese agronomists in making greater contributions to the country's food security.

Nanfan, or offseason seed breeding in South China's Hainan province, started in the 1950s as agricultural scientists came to Sanya, Ledong and Lingshui from November to May to conduct seed breeding-related activities. Shortening the breeding cycle by half or more, Nanfan has accelerated the breeding process and greatly improved the adaptability of seed varieties, the experts said.

At the Nanfan breeding bases, dubbed China's Silicon Valley for seed breeding, more than 10,000 scientists and workers from more than 800 research institutions and universities gather from across the country, bringing more than 3 million breeding materials to the vital seed propagation facility each year.

Among them was Yuan Longping, the late agri-scientist known as the "father of hybrid rice", according to data from the Hainan provincial Nanfan breeding administration.

The Yazhou Bay Seed Laboratory covered more than 240,000 square meters. It built 10 public scientific research platforms which are equipped with more than 3,000 sets of the most advanced sequencers and mass spectrometers in the world. Seed samples collected from the field can be tested and identified with great convenience, said Xia Mian, head of the lab's department for cooperation and exchanges.

The seed lab has gathered research staff to work on seed industry innovation, in collaboration with around 20 member institutions.

Xia said more sets of large equipment are being installed to support scientific research at the lab, which will boast about 7,000 sets of various facilities to be shared by Nanfan agro-scientists in the near future.

In the past years, Nanfan agro-scientists had to send seeds for testing to cities like Beijing and Shanghai as there were no basic facilities such as first-generation sequencers.

"Backed by a professional technical support team and a comprehensive public service platform, the lab will serve as an innovation engine of the 'Nanfan Silicon Valley' to help cultivate a complete chain that links theoretical innovation with technology integration, seed breeding design and industrial incubation, and carry out joint innovative research to tackle bottlenecks," Xia said.

"The lab's advanced platforms, such as the large instrument public service center and precision molecular design breeding center, have made scientific research very convenient and efficient, while saving a lot of costs," said Yang Xiaofeng, executive vice-president of Sanya Nanfan Research Institute under Hainan University.

Jia Zhiwei, deputy general manager of Longping Biotech (Hainan) Co Ltd, said the lab, with its excellent natural location and state-of-the-art research environment, are playing an important role in promoting seed breeding technology development and exchanges of new ideas among agro-scientists.

Jia, who has a doctorate in biochemistry and molecular biology, believes the Nanfan Silicon Valley will become a highland of China's seed industry research and progress in the application of biotech in seed breeding.

She said it will also bring revolutionary changes by improving the quality of seeds in traditional crops, cultivation of new varieties, and the reduction of pests and crop diseases which will ensure greater yields.

The Longping company has been expanded quickly over the past three years, with its research team growing from around 10 at the launch date to the current 60 scientists, part of them coming from leading seed research institutions at home and abroad.

"Longping Biotech focuses on developing key 'chip' technologies for biotechnological breeding of corn, soybean and other crops. The company also engages in developing insect-resistance and herbicide-tolerance technology, gene editing, male sterility seed production and new insect resistance, and drought resistance gene mining," said Jia.

"Based in Sanya, we are conducting research from a global perspective. For instance, we have successfully helped Brazil get fall armyworms under control-a pest that seriously harms the growth of maize-through biotechnology," she added.

Looking back into the development of seed breeding in Hainan, the varieties have been expanded from main crops such as rice, maize, and cotton to a much diversified list that include more than 40 species such as oil crops, potatoes, fruit trees, vegetables, flowers, medicinal herbs, aquatic products, livestock and poultry breeding, said the Hainan Nanfan administration.

It said that taking advantage of the tropical climate and biological resources in Hainan, Chinese agro-scientists have developed more than 70 percent of new crop varieties in the country.

"With unique natural conditions, Hainan is a treasure land for agricultural scientific research in China. Almost all good varieties come from Hainan, and it has played an important role in promoting China's agricultural development," said Yuan Longping, the late scientist who once worked for nearly 50 years in Hainan.

Zhao Yimeng in Beijing contributed to this story.