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Corn master offers farmers a 'golden' opportunity

Updated: 2022-01-14 08:36 ( China Daily )
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HAIKOU-For his 86th birthday, Cheng Xiangwen enjoyed a cornshaped cake his colleagues had prepared for him.

"My birthday wish is to develop better corn varieties," he says. After the celebration, he embarked on yet another journey to Sanya, in South China's Hainan province, where he has worked for a large portion of his life.

Cheng is an agronomist and spends most of his life studying and cultivating corn. He visits Sanya in November every year and stays for six months to cultivate corn.

His work forms part of China's efforts to strengthen agriculture and food security.

Over the years, China's policies on ensuring food security have played a significant role in elevating the living standards of its 1.4 billion people and contributed to world food security. Ensuring food security will remain a priority for the country's agricultural development this year.

During the annual central rural work conference held last month, Chinese leaders reiterated that the nation must secure its food supply at all times, urging all relevant parties to play their part in protecting farmland and stabilizing grain output.

Cheng is a native of Central China's Henan province, a massive corn production base. After graduating in 1963, he became an agrotechnician in Henan's Xunxian county. At that time, the county saw a meager average annual corn output of 750 kilograms per hectare.

Once, when he was conducting a field survey, a female farmer said to him in tears: "You graduated from college. Could you please find a way to boost the corn output here? If the yields are higher, our children will no longer suffer from hunger."

Since then, Cheng has made developing high-yield corn varieties his life's mission.

In 1964, he came to Hainan, where it was warmer, and started his work there. He slashed the cultivation period and created hybrid corn varieties for the first time. With these new varieties, farmers in Xunxian county saw their average corn output exceed 3,750 kg per hectare per year.

Local farmers described his seeds as "golden beans".

Despite the beautiful coastline, the environment where Cheng works used to be plagued by poverty and poor traffic. Locals once described the area as having rampant rats, mosquitoes, leeches, and poisonous snakes.

At that time, he did everything on his own. He went back and forth between the cornfield and a public toilet several kilometers away to manure the field; he lived in a local villager's house and he frequently went to the mountains to chop firewood to cook.

His hard work, however, has paid off. Now, authorities have approved 14 new, high-yield corn varieties Cheng helped develop.

Cheng will spend his 57th Chinese Lunar New Year at the cultivating base in Sanya. These days, he heads a research team of more than 10 members and the research facilities are considerably better than the old days.

Cheng is dedicated to developing high-yield corn varieties with stronger resistance and which are easier to harvest with machines. He still goes to the fields each day and observes and records the corn plants.

"Cultivating seeds is like raising kids. Only by careful parenting can you become familiar with their strengths and weaknesses and help them to grow up healthy," he says.


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