China’s food security threatened by drastic drop in crop varieties

By Zhang Hui Source:Global Times Published: 2018/7/19 22:23:40

Over 70 percent of food crop varieties has disappeared in six regions in China, including Central China's Hubei and Hunan provinces, which agricultural experts fear may threaten China's food security.

The native food crop varieties in 375 counties of six provinces and cities have shrunk from 11,590 in 1956 to 3,271 in 2014, according to a national food crops meeting on Wednesday in Changsha, capital city of Hunan Province, the Science and Technology Daily reported Thursday.

A survey of 830 counties in 12 provinces found that disease-resistant varieties have rapidly disappeared. For example, about 94 percent of local rice varieties in Hunan has disappeared.

China conducted its third national food crops survey in 2015 to support the development of unique agricultural products.

The survey looked into food crops in 2,228 counties in China in five to six years and saved food crop resources in 665 counties, according to the Science and Technology Daily report.

"The loss of local food crop varieties resulted from of the country's inadequate preservation methods, and some places only focused on yield," Li Xiaoyun, a professor at the Beijing-based China Agricultural University, told the Global Times on Thursday.

Some native varieties of rice, soybeans and wheat, while low in yield, could adapt to the local environment and resist drought or waterlogging, Li said.

"Their loss has lessened the diversity of food crops in China, which may ultimately affect the total yield of the country's food crops and threaten food security," Li said.

Li Xinqi, a research fellow at the China National Hybrid Rice R&D Center, told the Global Times on Thursday that some native varieties with a relatively long history in China have lost their ability to resist disease and pests.

But local agricultural authorities should preserve their genes for future study, according to Li Xinqi.

Chinese agricultural experts have collected 29,763 ancient native varieties and endangered wild plants, and will conduct surveys in provinces including Sichuan, Shaanxi, Jiangsu and Guangdong later this year.

Newspaper headline: Food security threatened by drastic drop in crop varieties

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