Sat, Dec 15, 2012 - Page 5 News List

Labor of love pays off for rice breeder

NO PAIN, NO GRAIN:Despite spending nearly 12 hours a day for up to six months per year in rice paddies, Wu Yung-pei says he now has the means to fulfill his dreams

By Yu Hsueh-lan and Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

This started when Wu sent several bars of his soaps to then-TARI director Lin Chun-yi (林俊義), who gave one to a female employee.

The employee spoke highly of Wu’s rice soaps to her colleagues after trying out the products, and the Council of Agriculture — the supervisory organization for the TARI — began to see the further business potential of rice, which could not only serve as a staple food, but also as the main ingredient in a variety of products.

Following a press conference held by the council to trumpet the country’s research efforts on rice soaps, Wu gained public attention that has helped attract funding and manpower to assist with his later developments of rice vinegars and rice-based cosmetics.

The techniques for the majority of Wu’s processed rice products have been transferred to the nation’s farmers’ associations and private corporations for mass production.

Setting his sights high, Wu said his next ambition is to breed multi-adversity-resistant cultivars to cope with a possible food crisis caused by global warming.

“So far, we have succeeded in breeding salt and drought-tolerant varieties of rice, with the former currently going through a test planting phase in Greater Tainan’s Beimen District (北門),” Wu said, adding he is trying to incorporate drought tolerance into the salt-resistant variety.

“Our lives would depend on these adversity-resistant rice mutations should a food crisis occur in the future,” he said.

To realize his aspirations, Wu said he has to spend one month each year carrying out pollination for varied rice mutants in a lightproof room with an average temperature of about 40°C.

“Conducting experiments may be rather painstaking, but I’m actually having fun in the process, because now I have the money and the manpower needed to fulfill my dreams,” Wu said.

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