An agronomist hailed as a Chinese national hero for helping develop hybrid rice and easing hunger for millions worldwide died on Saturday at the age of 90, state-run Xinhua news agency said.
Yuan Longping, known in China as the "father of hybrid rice", is credited with cultivating the world's first high-yield hybrid rice strain in 1973.
Yuan died in a hospital in Changsha, capital of Hunan province, Xinhua said. It said he had suffered from an unspecified illness.
Hybrid rice, which can yield 20 percent above conventional varieties according to experts, was subsequently widely planted in China and rice-growing areas around the world.\
It is credited with helping to ease food supply worries in China, which has the world's largest population at 1.4 billion.
Xinhua said 16 million hectares of agricultural land in China is now planted with hybrid rice, or 57 percent of the country's total rice-planting area, helping to feed an additional 80 million people per year.
The news of Yuan's death was viewed nearly a billion times within a couple of hours after the announcement, with web users mourning his passing and lauding his breakthroughs.