Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region now boasts an average yield of 137.5 kilograms of cotton per mu (per 0.067 hectares), the highest in China for 26 consecutive years.
Xinjiang’s prosperous cotton industry wouldn’t have been possible without the contributions of Chen Shunli, an alumnus of Zhejiang University who has devoted his whole life to breeding long stapled cotton in the region in Hangzhou China.
In the early 1950s, Chen found that the climate conditions in the Tarim Basin was similar to those in Egypt and Russia, two world renowned planting regions of long stapled cotton.
He got the opportunity to breed 500 grams of long stapled cotton seeds, which were brought in by the then Ministry of Agriculture from Russia, and carried the country’s hope to cut imports of long stapled cotton.
Breeding was repetitive and tiresome, but Chen was always determined to breed his own species in South Xinjiang, an area regarded as not suitable for planting long stapled cotton.
After three years of breeding and selection, Chen cultivated China’s first long stapled cotton species Shengli I, but had to start again as the species wasn’t able to obtain the desired fiber length and tenacity.
Another eight years passed and Chen finally developed Junhai I, a species that was recognized as a breakthrough in China’s breeding history of long stapled cotton for its early ripeness, high yield, and high-quality fiber.
Statistics show that by 1968, the total planting area of Junhai I long stapled cotton in Xinjiang reached over 20,000 hectares.