Researchers rooted in Hainan cultivate new vegetable varieties

By / HICN / Updated: 18:02,13-May-2022

China is a large producer of vegetables, with around 300 million mu (about 20,000,000 hectares) under cultivation and an average annual output value of about 2 trillion RMB (almost 2,974 million USD) during the 13th Five-Year Plan period, which lasted from 2016 through 2020. Hainan's bright sunshine, warm weather, and plentiful waters provide good climate conditions for cultivating new crop varieties. There are now many researchers in Hainan cultivating new vegetable varieties in addition to the rice, corn, cotton, and other southern agriculture projects in order to add to the already staggering variety of Chinese vegetable options.

Qu Hongyun: Chasing the sun for 12 years to produce better eggplant seeds

Qu Hongyun, of the Gardening Branch of the Heilongjiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences, is fairly short, plainly dressed, wearing a straw hat, and standing in an eggplant field, looks like a typical farmer. "In the wind and the sun, I do the work of farmers, you can see the marks on my hands," she said, holding out her hands to show the thick calluses on her palms and fingers.

Visitors look at new pumpkin varieties in the National Modern Agriculture (Seed Industry) Industrial Park, Yazhou District, Sanya. Photo by Yuan Chen, Hainan Daily.

Although what Qu Hongyun does is farm work, she is not an ordinary farmer. In 2003, Qu Hongyun came to Hainan chasing the tropical sunshine, and spent most of her time growing vegetables in the fields. "Every vegetable cultivator has a dream, and I am no exception. My dream is to produce good quality eggplant seeds, spread them throughout China, and help farmers increase their incomes." Qu Hongyun said.

"It takes about 10 years for a new, good variety to really take root and become widespread. First, we have to select varieties with a high yield, strong disease resistance, and other beneficial characteristics, create hybrids with a male and female parent, and then spend several years selecting varieties with excellent traits and a stable performance, and repeatedly conduct tests," said Qu Hongyun.

The outdoor sun is blinding, the weather is hot, and there are tons of mosquitoes... creating new vegetable varieties is hard, boring work, but Qu Hongyun never lets up, and takes care of her eggplants like they were her own children. One year, when a typhoon destroyed months of hard work, she was too upset to speak as she looked at her ruined eggplant field.

"That's how agriculture works, it's often affected by the climate." Qu Hongyun did not get discouraged, and replanted the eggplant seedlings. During the day, she would go to the field to select seeds one by one, pollinate and hybridize the plants, and observe and record detailed information on each of the hybrids. At night, she would return to the dormitory, where she would begin to organize and analyze the data recorded during the day.

Working in this way day after day, year after year, Qu Hongyun created the Dragon Hybrid Eggplant No. 8 in Hainan. It is a hybrid of  "93-102" as the female parent and "95-17" as the male parent. This is a long purple eggplant with age-resistant skin, good quality flesh, and a good yield. It’s popular with a majority of farmers and has been planted on more than 50,000 mu (about 3,333 hectares).

The Lihaizhen Pumpkin Team from the Institute of Vegetable Research, Beijing Academy of Agricultural and Forestry Sciences spent more than 10 years in Hainan working to create new medium-sized ‘Beibei’ pumpkins and other pumpkin varieties, with the goals of enriching the variety of Chinese pumpkin products and bringing high-end pumpkins into the homes of more people. Experts from the Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Zhumadian City, Henan Province plant more than 2,000 varieties of vegetables including corn, peanuts, soybeans, sesame, eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes each year in Hainan.

In recent years, vegetable cultivation teams from around the country have been traveling between the Island Province and other places in China, creating a large number of high-quality vegetable varieties that have enriched dinner tables all across the nation.

Cao Zhonghe: Sold at a good price, this new cucumber creates a bridge to prosperity

Cao Zhonghe, from Fanyang Village, Fanyang Town, Wuzhishan, has been growing cucumbers for nearly 20 years. This year, for the first time though, he planted grafted cucumber seedlings. "We buy seedlings through a unified channel. The government has subsidies for us, the quality can be assured, and experts give us technical guidance, so increasing our production and income is easy," he said with a smile.

Workers grafting green vegetable seedlings at Yucai Ecological Zone in Sanya. Photo by Wu Wei, Hainan Daily.

Cucumbers, important winter vegetables in Hainan Province, are a major cash crop for farmers. However, many cucumber farmers have been faced with the problem of poor quality and low yields due to their inability to keep the land fertile, and to keep up with the many different varieties of cucumbers available.

Good seeds can produce a huge amount of vegetables. In recent years, Hainan University, the Sanya Institute of Seed Breeding, the Sanya Institute of Tropical Agricultural Science, and other research institutes have been actively researching new vegetable varieties, improved grafting planting technologies, selection, and the creation of high yield, high resistance, well selling vegetable varieties, such as Jin Green 18, Chiyu 505, Jin You 100, and other new varieties of cucumbers in order to enhance the market competitiveness of the Hainan cucumber, as well as to increase the incomes and prosperity of farmers.

"We cooperate with the Sanya Institute of Seed Breeding and the Sanya Institute of Tropical Agricultural Science to bring in new, high-quality cucumber varieties, establish standardized cultivation demonstration sites, and hold cucumber seedling grafting technology training courses in order to increase the incomes of more farmers through cucumber cultivation," said a representative of the Panyang Town government.

Cao Zhonghe explained that he purchased grafted cucumber seedlings, and was able to grow plump, green cucumbers. The overall quality was better, and they sold at a good price. This year, the sales revenue of Panyang cucumbers exceeded 10 million RMB (almost 1,486 million USD) within 20 days of being first listed. By mid-March, sales revenues had exceeded 50 million RMB (almost 7 million USD), hitting a record high.

Shuijiao Base: Seeds are sprouted in Hainan and transplanted across the country

In the Yucai Ecological Zone of the Nashou Village Nursery Base in Sanya, on the shelves in the greenhouse, rows of pineapple seedlings look fresh and green, and are growing well. The workers said that they are busy cultivating 250,000 pineapple seedlings because they just received an order from an agricultural base in Changjiang.

A new corn variety was developed by the Hainan Seed Innovation Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Photo by Wu Wei, Hainan Daily.

Nashou Village, located in the mountainous area of Sanya, is exploring a new kind of industrial revitalization, relying on the technical advantages of scientific research institutes, adopting the model of ‘village committee + scientific research unit + demonstration base + farmers’ to develop a new seedling brand and improve the economy of the entire village.

"Last year, we launched a winter vegetable seedling project, growing 1.2 million cucumber, eggplant, and other winter vegetable seedlings in the village’s collective seedling demonstration base, which covers an area of 10 mu (about 0.667 hectares), supplying seedlings to farmers in Sanya and surrounding cities and counties. Results were excellent." Xiao Chunlei, the first Secretary of Nashou Village, said that the vegetable seed project has now made a total profit of about 300,000 RMB (almost 4,459 USD), employing more than 30 villagers.

Zhou Enhua is a villager from Nashou who works in the seedling base, where her main job is grafting cucumber seedlings onto pumpkin seedlings. The newly grafted cucumber seedlings will be sent to cucumber farmers in different places 25 days after grafting. "It's nice to work here, both due to the salary and also because I can learn the skill of grafting", she said.

In recent years, Hainan's advantages in vegetable cultivation have become increasingly evident, and the specialization and intensification of seedlings, as well as seedling ordering methods, have all been improved. At present, vegetable nurseries have been built in Haikou, Sanya, Wenchang, Wanning, Lingshui, Changjiang, and other places in Hainan.

Since this year’s Spring Festival, work has not stopped at the Sanya Tropical Agricultural Research Institute’s Shuijiao Base nursery. Loofah seedlings, eggplant seedlings, and chili seedlings were shipped to Hunan, passion fruit seedlings were shipped to Guangxi, and chili seedlings were also shipped to Xinjiang.

Each seedling was grown in the bright sunshine of Hainan, then they go their separate ways and fly to all parts of the country." Chili seedlings need more than two months to grow to more than 20 cm. tall in Hunan, while in Sanya it takes only a month. This is our nursery’s advantage,” said a representative of the base.

"After two years of cultivation, we found that ‘Southern Breeding and Northern Sowing' doesn’t slow down vegetable growth at all, and the seedlings sent from Hainan to other places bloom and bear fruit earlier, and the yields are also higher." A representative of the Sanya Municipal Bureau of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said that this method of transplanting southern-grown seedlings to fields in the north is enriching Hainan’s modern agricultural industry.



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