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Seed breeders cultivate fortune, future in Anhui

Pub Date:23-01-28 08:57 Source:Xinhua

Xu Congxiang (R) and his grandson Xu Xudong check the growth of seedlings in a field in Taihe County, east China's Anhui Province, June 28, 2022. (Xinhua/Zhou Mu)

HEFEI, Jan. 26 (Xinhua) -- On a late winter afternoon when the setting sun cast its warm orange light over the green wheat field in Taihe County, east China's Anhui Province, Xu Congxiang, a 70-year-old farmer and his grandson Xu Xudong walked in the field, at times bending their knees to check the seedlings, jotting down some brief notes.

"We have planted more than 30 wheat varieties carefully selected from universities and research institutes in this 300 mu (about 20 hectares) test field," said Xu Congxiang, a veteran farmer with over 50 years of farming experience. Since the establishment of the agricultural cooperative in 2010, he has been working with his colleagues and agricultural professionals from research institutes in Anhui to select and breed high-quality corn, soybean, and wheat varieties.

"My family and I do both the farming and seed breeding. Therefore, I think we're sort of rural 'seed-breeders,'" said Xu Congxiang.

In this major agricultural province, some experienced farmers have been striving to develop high-yield varieties.

In the cooperative's laboratory, nearly 1,000 paper sacks containing samples of wheat varieties have been piled on the desk. Xu Xudong, who graduated from university in 2018, is now in charge of the sample collection and basic experiments.

"There is pretty much work to handle, and that's why I call myself a 'butler' of the test field," Xu Xudong explained, "Grandpa goes to the test field to check the growth of crops and make adjustments. I do the basic experiments and report data to agricultural institutes before they give us further breeding suggestions."

"It took about a decade to breed a good variety in the past. Now, as we're working with so many experts, everything has become much easier and more efficient," said Xu Congxiang, noting that over the past 10 years, four soybean varieties and two wheat varieties with completely independent intellectual property rights have been developed.

The cooperative witnessed a harvest in a 700 mu field of improved soybean variety not long ago. The average yield per mu hit 240 kilograms, 70 kilograms higher than that of the average soybean field.

"It's almost impossible without the help of experts and new technologies," said Xu Congxiang.

Over the past few years, Anhui has dispatched over 17,000 agricultural experts to rural areas to provide technical support and promote the latest agricultural techniques, equipment, and technologies. In 2022 alone, over 227 agricultural demonstration bases and 115 workstations of agricultural experts have been established across the province.

Supported by so many professionals, not only grain producers but also some experienced flower growers in Anhui are taking a leap in breeding seeds. The results are, just as one would have expected, very satisfying.

In Feixi County, Xie Guangkun, head of a local butterfly orchid planting base, is working with multiple experts stationed at his enterprise to develop new flower varieties.

"In 2012, we established an engineering and technological research center to breed orchids, and the agricultural experts have been supporting us," said Xie.

"We have updated the traditional seed breeding techniques. They are now more efficient, eco-friendly, and cost-effective," said Meng Yanqiong, an associate professor at the School of Forestry & Landscape Architecture of Anhui Agricultural University. The expert team also helped the enterprise develop a whole set of orchids production techniques that can reduce the growth cycle by over 40 days, according to Meng.

As of now, Xie and his teammates have acquired 16 patents. Six new breeds have been certified, and multiple other new varieties are to be put on the market.

Apart from breeding fine orchid varieties, the planting base also serves as a teaching and demonstration base for local students.

Since 2009, Xie has been inviting teachers and students from surrounding agricultural universities and organizations to observe and practice orchid breeding and cultivation techniques. Every year over 100 students and teachers are invited to the base.

"We want to give future agricultural experts a chance to sharpen their seed-breeding knowledge and practice cultivation techniques. I feel so great to help them," Xie said.

Editor:Zheng Chen

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