Plant pathologist honored as role model

2019-12-03 Xinhua Editor:Mo Hong'e

Plant pathologist Zhu Youyong on Monday was bestowed the title of "role model of the times," in recognition of his contributions both in science and poverty reduction.

Zhu, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and honorary president of Yunnan Agricultural University in southwest China, started his research on crops' genetic diversity as a solution to their vulnerability to diseases in 1986.

He spent the subsequent more than a decade doing experiments and finally confirmed that intraspecific crop diversification provides an ecologically effective approach to disease control.

His findings were published in Nature in 2000, and his ecological farming solutions to crop disease control have also been widely applied both at home and abroad.

Zhu's dedication has earned him many honors, including the second prize in national sci-tech progress award and the title of national model teacher, but what makes him different is a decision he made five years ago.

At the age of 60, Zhu voluntarily chose to work in the poverty-stricken ethnic Lagu Autonomous County of Lancang in Yunnan in 2015, where 41 percent of residents remained in poverty at the time.

Zhu led a team to set up their workstation in the Yunshan village of the county and stayed there for the past five years.

To help the farmers, he advocated planting potatoes in winter and carried out demonstration planting with village cadres when the farmers were not keen on his proposal at first.

Their efforts paid off, as they have harvested potatoes weighing as big as 2.5 kg apiece.

Zhu also led the farmers in developing local specialty industry and cultivated "organic panax notoginseng" that pharmaceutical companies rushed to purchase.

Moreover, his special training program helped more than 1,000 people become pioneers in raising income with new technologies.

"It was my childhood dream to help farmers lead a better life," said Zhu, who was born in a rural family in Yunnan in 1955.

The dream drove him in his tireless study and research. It made him more than happy to see his research results applied in the field.

"It's much better than receiving awards or getting papers published," said Zhu, who has long been called "the farmer academician" by the locals.

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