Yuan Longping, director of the National Hybrid Rice Engineering Technology Research Center, announced on Sunday that his team is developing a new high-yield hybrid rice that is expected to yield 13.5 tons of rice per hectare, state media reported. Yuan, known as the ‘father of hybrid rice’, made the announcement at the World Expo’s third theme forum in Wuxi, Jiangsu, and added that the crop would be completed in 2012. By comparison, the previous second-generation hybrid – released for commercial production in 2006 – yields nine tons of rice per hectare. China currently plants 29 million hectares of rice per year, with an average output capacity of 6.3 tons per hectare. Hybrid rice accounts for about 57% of that total. China needs to maintain an annual grain output of 500 million tons to feed its population, according to the Ministry of Agriculture. Recently, China has faced a challenging grain situation this summer because of strong rainfalls in the south during the summer harvest season. Hybrid rice could play a key role in ensuring food security, Yuan said.