HARBIN, Jan. 5 (Xinhua) -- Every winter, like migratory birds, Li Yanhua and her team always travel over 4,000 km from the agroecological experiment station in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province to the country's southernmost province of Hainan to breed high-yielding bean seeds in a shorter period of time.
As a soybean breeding expert and researcher at the Northeast Institute of Geography and Agroecology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Li has selected and bred a total of 15 high-yielding soybean varieties, whose planting area accounts for about one-tenth of China's soybean cultivation area, over the past 32 years.
The "Dongsheng" series of soybeans bred by Li is rich in oil and protein, and strong in resisting lodging, which has increased yields by more than a billion kilograms and raised incomes for farmers by more than 4 billion yuan (about 560 million U.S. dollars).
As China's major grain barn, Heilongjiang owns China's largest soybean-producing area. Soybean production in the province reached 9.53 billion kilograms in 2022, accounting for 47 percent of the country's total, with a year-on-year increase of 2.34 billion kilograms. The province has adopted advanced technology to grow generations of strong and sturdy soybean varieties.
In Changxing Village of Yilan County, Heilongjiang Province, local villager Han Zhimin enjoyed the fruits of Li's efforts. Han is the director of the Chengxin corn planting professional cooperative. In the past year, his cooperative planted more than 8,000 mu (about 533.33 hectares) of soybeans, and the yield could hit more than 3,975 kilograms per hectare, which is the highest level in years.
"Every year, we plant small trial plots of four to five soybean varieties in advance to test their yield potential. Thus, we can decide whether to plant them on a large scale," Han said.
Across the farmland in Heilongjiang, innovations in seed breeding have transferred from test tubes to the fields, from state-owned labs to local enterprises.
Wuchang City is well-known for its high-quality rice in China, with more than 2.49 million mu (about 166,000 hectares) of paddy fields and an annual output of 700 million kilograms of rice. The local companies are working to revitalize a famous rice variety with the latest technologies and develop new varieties that are stronger and more productive.
Heilongjiang has also organized several rice festivals to promote the development of the rice breeding industry.
In 2022, Heilongjiang Province arranged funds of 300 million yuan to support innovations in the seed industry and accelerate the construction of 19 national breeding bases and 16 expert breeding demonstration bases for corn, soybeans, rice, and other crops. With these efforts, the province strives to promote the application of excellent seed varieties and consolidate the foundation for the modernization of the seed industry.
Heilongjiang owns the only cold-land crop germplasm bank in China. In 2022, the preservation capacity of germplasm resources of the province has been increased from 80,000 to 200,000 samples, which is of great significance in protecting China's cold-land crop germplasm resources and safeguarding national food security.
As China's major grain barn, Heilongjiang is a microcosm of the rapid development of China's seed industry. China has attached great importance to an independent seed industry to ensure food security.
Last April, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of China announced the results of national-level seed production counties and regional breeding bases, bringing the number of national-level seed production bases in China to 216, covering most of the important crops.
During the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-2020), China earmarked over 5 billion yuan in support of seed production bases. They supply over 70 percent of seeds for crop production and ensure national grain security.
China will continue to implement reward policies for major seed-producing counties and carry out projects aimed at upgrading the seed industry while seeking to ensure that national seed production bases can supply over 80 percent of the seeds for the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-2025). ■