21 August 2017 | News
Last year, Dr Yin was part of the team that contributed seven varieties of Singaporean rice seeds to the Norwegian Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a secure seed facility.
Dr Yin Zhongchao, 50, was named the Outstanding Rice Scientist of Singapore at the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) Rice Science and Technology Ambassadors Award.
To mark Asean’s 50th anniversary, the inaugural award was given to 15 rice scientists and farmers across the region at a ceremony in the Philippines. Dr Yin, a senior principal investigator at Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory who has been studying how to genetically improve rice grains, was the only winner from Singapore.
Much of his research is underscored by the need to boost productivity in paddy fields, and to keep bacteria from destroying harvests. Containing bacteria is important for farmers during seasonal monsoons or floods, which could cause bacteria to spread. Without advancements in research and development, bacteria could kill up to 80 per cent of a harvest and affect the quality of the remaining crops.
In 2005, Dr Yin and his research team published their findings on a cloned gene, Xa27 in a scientific journal. Once introduced to rice grains, the gene builds resistance to bacterial blight, which causes the wilting of seedlings and drying of leaves. The team modified another gene, Xa10, to keep pace with the evolution of bacteria, and in another breakthrough in 2015, they were able to use the modified gene to build resistance to 26 bacterial strains from various countries including China, Japan and Australia. Dr Yin’s team also worked on the Xa10 and Xa27 genes to induce products that could trigger cell death.
Last year, Dr Yin was part of the team that contributed seven varieties of Singaporean rice seeds to the Norwegian Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a secure seed facility. Among them was a variety known as Temasek Rice, modified to be disease- and weather-resistant.
Dr Yin’s team also works closely with farmers in the region to develop sustainable farming practices to improve productivity and the livelihoods of the rice farming community, and their work would help to contribute to the long-term food security for the region.