Better rice and richer farmer -- Supply Side Reform in Hunan’s Seed Industry

Add time:2017/2/21 11:17:40Author:Click:
“The 500t rice produced last year was sold out without any grain left.” Attributed to the high-quality rice variety, Yang Zhongwu, a farmer of Nanyang Village, Dayao Town, Liuyang, Hunan Province, is no longer worried about “poor marketability of grain”, and has sold out the rice at a price much higher than the market price.
“Quality rice is inaccessible to consumers, while peasants’ rice cannot sell at a satisfactory price” has been a chronic disease for grain production in China. The No. 1 document issued by the central government this year specifies that the structural adjustment should be accelerated in the direction of agricultural supply-side structural reform. Seed is the foundation of agriculture. Hunan, being a major seed breeder, has blazed a trail of supply-side reform for the transformation to high-quality efficient production, by optimizing every piece of seed.
Good varieties improve the taste of rice
“The unsavory rice cannot satiate the workers, so that they feel listless during work,” The boss of a local fireworks factory complained to Yang Zhongwu a few years ago.
In 2005, upon concerted efforts made by multiple seed breeding experts and seed enterprises, the Hunan Agriculture Committee released 5 high-quality hybrid rice varieties (e.g. “Tao You Xiang Zhan”, “G Liang You 1#”). In addition to the inherited advantage of high yield, these varieties are rated 8.5-8.9 in taste, comparable to Thai fragrant rice.
In 2016, LPHT, being a leading enterprise of China’s seed industry, released 16 quality varieties of 2 series (“Long Liang You”, “Jing Liang You”), which have been examined and approved by the government. They consist of 6 varieties up to the level 2 and 10 varieties up to the level 3 specified in the national standard.
“The taste of rice depends on the amylose content. A variety with amylose content below 13% is too glutinous.  A variety with amylose content above 20% is too hard. Both the 2 series fall within the best range.” In order to continuously improve the taste of rice, LPHT has invested more than RMB 700 million from 2011 to 2016 in development of high-quality rice varieties; in addition to 10 rice seed breeding stations established at home and abroad, 189 variety testing points have been established all over the country, Yang Yuanzhu (President of Hunan Ava Seeds Research Institute) introduced.
“Among more than 70 ‘breeding-propagation-promotion’ seed enterprises, 57 enterprises suffered loss last year, while 5 enterprises of Hunan ranked among top 20 seed sellers of China.” According to Xu Jingbo (Director of Seed Management Office, Hunan Agriculture Committee), the sharp contrast is attributed to the fact that Hunan’s seed enterprises had transformed their goals to pursuit of high quality and good taste in advance.
Good service brings better benefits to peasants
Although the quality varieties like “Tao You Xiang Zhan” and “Long Liang You Hua Zhan” are sold at RMB 145-150/50kg, namely RMB 10-15/50kg higher than the minimum protective price specified by the government, a seed enterprise can increase peasants’ income by optimizing service in the direction of “cost reduction, risk control”.
In 2016, Prof. Zou Yingbin (Hunan Agricultural University) invented the “3S cultivation technology” (seed + seedling + standing grain), which significantly reduces the seed consumption in mechanized hybrid rice transplanting. As introduced by Fan Xiaobing (President of LPHT Nongyi Technology Co., Ltd.), the “3S cultivation technology”was bought by LPHT with RMB 5 million to extend the service chain last year, and is being tested and promoted on more than 100 demonstration sites in Hunan, Anhui and Jiangxi. Chen Dengke, a farmer of Pingtou Village, Yongan Town, Liuyang, told the reporter that the seed consumption of last year was 50% less than before, and totally, about RMB 16,000 was saved over his 150mu paddy field.
Also, many seed agents and dealers have duly transformed to “service providers”. Yu Luo (GM of Hunan Sihe Technology Co., Ltd.) told the reporter that being a seed agent, he attended an agricultural technology training in the University of Science and Technology of China, and obtained the agricultural technician qualification certificate at his own cost. “In production seasons, I go deep into fields every other day or so to instruct peasants to conduct field management, disease prevention and pest control, while seed selling appears to be a sideline.” If he didn’t provide service for peasants, seed selling would be a one-time deal, and no peasant would buy seeds from him next season, Yu said.
Besides high yield and high quality, lower disease rate and less pesticide and fertilizer consumption are the uppermost requirements expressed by professional peasants for varieties. Therefore, the disease-resistant and lodging-resistant varieties are more popular. Given this, LPHT specially built the “Phenotype Identification Platform” to develop varieties resistant to the diseases like bacterial blight and rice blast, Yang Yuanzhu introduced. “All the 16 varieties approved last year reach the middle level of disease resistance”, Yang said.
Good policies make enterprises more hopeful
Pursuing better varieties by people and peasants influences seed administrations through reversed transmission of pressure. As the reporter learnt, the new measures to be issued by Hunan for seed approval will transform from only paying attention to yield to laying equal stress on quality and greenness. This will open a “green channel” through which seed enterprises can produce more readily marketable varieties.
First, a high-end variety up to the level 3 specified in the national standard will be allowed to yield 15% less than the control variety, during the regional trial. Compared to common varieties, such variety will be sold at a price at least 20% higher without encountering poor sales, Xu introduced.
Second, a double cropping rice variety with a growth period shorter than 105 days can be approved as long as its daily average yield is no less than that of the control variety. Xu said: “Most existing double cropping rice varieties have a growth period longer than 110 days.” By shortening the growth period, more time can be provided for rush harvesting and rush planting.
Third, a variety lower than level 3 in rice blast resistance index will be allowed to yield 3% less than the control variety. As the reporter learnt, almost every occurrence of rice blast, which can be called “rice caner”, means no harvest. That is, the only measure is to seek varieties highly resistant to rice blast in the stage of seed breeding.
In addition, the “variety withdrawal mechanism” will be implemented in the province. According to the plan, within 5 years from 2017, obviously defective or badly degraded varieties on the market will be gradually weeded out; the focus of supervision over enterprises will transform from seed production to seed service.
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