“Gon-gong… Gongzi, are you serious on this matter?”
Zhang Munian could not keep his composure anymore.
The reason why he had to embezzle twenty thousand gold taels, which eventually resulted in his imprisonment, was due to the lack of financial support. If he were to possess sufficient financial ability and support from the authorities, how could he have landed in such a state?
As such, Wang Chong’s suggestion left him moved. In an instant, his agitation vanquished all of his unease from having his secret exposed.
“Of course. If I didn’t intend to help you, I wouldn’t have gone to the extent of saving you.”
Wang Chong said calmly.
Regardless of whether it was his previous life or his current one, Zhang Munian had always been an inconspicuous figure, and there weren’t much news on him. In truth, all Wang Chong knew about him was that after his death, the crops that he created slowly appeared all over Great Tang.
His crops were of a much higher quality than the others. Even though it failed to reverse the ultimate fate of the Central Plains and Great Tang, at the very least, Wang Chong learned that there was a martyr known as Zhang Munian who had been silently devoting his strength for the empire.
He didn’t enjoy fame and prestige in his lifetime, and even upon death, his accomplishments continued to remain unrecognized.
Even so, his contribution to the empire was immense.
From Shang to Xia, then from Zhou to Han, and eventually, Sui and Tang, the main reason why humans could sustain themselves without hunting, and maintain a steady population growth was due to the contributions of martyrs like Zhang Munian.
The current prosperity of the Central Plains was only possible due to their silent contributions.
If one were to compare the quality of rations, those of Xia surpassed Shang, Zhou surpassed Xia, Han surpassed Zhou… and eventually, when it came to Great Tang, the quality was already far beyond that of all previous dynasties.
Even so, the current food supply was still far from enough to sustain the immense population of the Central Plains.
Wang Chong’s goal was to build upon the current foundation and stimulate a huge growth in the agriculture production of the Central Plains.
However, there was no one in this present world capable of achieving this feat.
Wang Chong’s only hope lay in the knowledge he obtained from another time-space continuum. That being said, Wang Chong didn’t specialize in this field, and his strength as an individual was far from sufficient.
“Great! Wang gongzi, as long as you grant me sufficient support, I’ll… I’ll definitely cultivate crops reap much greater yield than the present ones!”
Zhang Munian didn’t think into the matter too deeply, and he had no idea what Wang Chong hoped to achieve either. All he felt at this very moment was just elation after learning that someone was willing to support him.
Wang Chong poured Zhang Munian a cup of tea while organizing his thoughts.
“… Having worked in the agriculture industry for so long, have you noticed that there are some crops that grant a significantly greater yield than the others?”
Zhang Munian was surprised. He didn’t expect a wealthy scion like Wang Chong to know about agriculture as well! However, considering that Wang Chong was offering to finance him, it should be expected that he would at least know a thing or two about the subject..
“The job of our Bureau of Agriculture is to find these high-yield crops, obtain their seeds, and find a way to propagate their growth. However, this turned out to be futile. Many of the seeds we found did possess high yield when we first found them, but upon being replanted, their yield became no different from that of ordinary plants. In fact, some of them even failed to germinate.”
“Finding a single true high-yield crop among ten thousand others can be as a stroke of fortune already.”
In the previous few dynasties, the responsibility of the agriculture officials was to visit fields and search for high-yield crops.
However, the hereditary traits of crops, in general, didn’t seem to be stable; sometimes, a crop could bring about great yield in the first generation, normal yield in the second, below average in the third, and possibly another great yield in the fourth.
It would have been pointless if that was the case. People could have already starved to death in between the first and the fourth harvest.
Besides, it was also a huge uncertainty whether one could obtain a great yield in the fourth generation or not.
Thus, the Bureau of Agriculture’s seed selection process was fraught with difficulties.
Zhang Munian had grown up in the fields, and under the influence of his family, he realized the importance of a sufficient supply of food. Thus, he devoted his entire life to searching for high-yield crops.
For that, he was even imprisoned and nearly executed.
“So the gold that disappeared was used to compensate the farmers with low yield, right?”
Wang Chong asked.
There was no need for Zhang Munian to hide anything before Wang Chong.
The selection of seeds was an extremely risky affair. If he wanted to continue the experiment, he had to reimburse the farmers who suffered from low returns in the season.
Zhang Munian didn’t spend the twenty thousand gold taels in the span of a single day; it was slowly consumed over a period of two decades.
The twenty thousand gold taels, down to the very last copper coin, had gone into reimbursing the farmers.
“Mister Zhang, regarding the high-yield crops, have you ever wondered why some crops can maintain their yield while others result in lower or even no yield at all?”
Contemplating over the matter for a short while to sieve out the appropriate words, Wang Chong carefully presented a different perspective to Zhang Munian.
Zhang Munian was taken aback. He had never considered this matter before so his selection process had never been any different from the other agriculture officials. Crop yield had been unstable since time immemorial, and he was already accustomed to the sight.
As such, he had never considered the reason behind the matter.
“This… I have never really considered this problem.”
Zhang Munian shook his head. This was the first time someone had proposed this question to him.
“Then, has Mister Zhang ever thought the idea that crops might be just like humans? It might be possible that there are differing genders among crops, and that they can be divided into male sterile lines and maintainer lines. If that’s the case, the phenomenon of high-yield crops experiencing poor yields in later harvests could be explained.”
Wang Chong finally threw out the theory.
Zhang Munian stared at the youngster before him as though he had seen a ghost. He had never heard of such a theory before. How could plants be divided into male and female?
However, Wang Chong’s words had indeed sparked some ideas in his mind. His theory might be unconventional but it wasn’t entirely implausible.
This was indeed a possible way to go about selecting seeds.
“I’ve never really considered this idea before.”
Zhang Munian contemplated for a moment, and eventually, he chose not to overthrow Wang Chong’s theory straight away.
Wang Chong had been looking at Zhang Munian’s eyes all along, and upon seeing that there was no rejection in his eyes, he heaved a long sigh of relief. The main problem with new theories was that they were difficult to accept.
But clearly, Zhang Munian wasn’t an inflexible person.
Wang Chong had found the right person for the job.
“Mister Zhang, I’ve been thinking that if we can determine and classify crops as male sterile lines and maintainer lines and separate them, it might allow future experiments to be much more efficient.”
“But still, we have to acknowledge that plants are ultimately still fundamentally different from humans. Humans could be divided into male and female but plants might not follow the same gender concept. Even though there are male sterile lines, there might be a recovery line that could turn male sterile lines back into maintainer lines when cross-bred.”
Wang Chong finally threw out the concept of ‘Three Lines of Hybrid Rice’.
In another world, the ‘Three Lines of Hybrid Rice’ was the very essence of hybrid rice. Even though it was only a theory, its usefulness wasn’t limited by the era one was in.
Only when heading in the right direction can one’s hard work bear fruits.
If one’s direction was wrong from the very start, it would be impossible to ever achieve one’s goals.
Wang Chong had neither any ‘hybrid rice’ to show Zhang Munian nor did he know anything about seed selection.
The ‘Three Lines of Hybrid Rice’ theory was all that he had.
For the impending crisis, the only solution was to cultivate high-yield hybrid rice in this world, and Zhang Munian was, without a doubt, the best candidate Wang Chong had to achieve this feat.
As long as Zhang Munian could classify the three lines of rice, Great Tang’s agriculture production would enjoy a qualitative leap. This would build a strong foundation for the future of Great Tang.
Regardless of whether it was to face the aggressive neighboring states or future foreign invaders, at the very least, a stable and reliable food supply would give Great Tang the strength to retaliate.
“I need to give it some thoughts. Gongzi‘s theories are completely unheard of but I am willing to give it a try.”
Zhang Munian replied gravely. Wang Chong’s Three Lines of Hybrid Rice theory had left his heart beating. Only after finding out the reason behind the unstable harvest of high-yield rice would it be possible to breed a true high-yield rice.
“Gongzi, can you grant me a plot of land? I wish to give your theory a test.”
Zhang Munian lifted his head and looked at Wang Chong with an excited gleam in his eyes.
“Hahaha, of course you can. I’ve already made the necessary arrangements. The land, however, will be located somewhere beyond Great Tang. That place is the ideal location for you to conduct your experiments.”
Wang Chong chuckled.
Zhang Munian lifted his head in astonishment, “May I know the location that gongzi is speaking of?”
Wang Chong smiled.
The rice in Jiaozhi matured three times in a year, and there was a huge labor force there that could be tapped into. Thus, it was the best location for Zhang Munian to conduct his experiment.
The rapid rate of maturity of the rice there would greatly shorten the time required for Zhang Munian to successfully breed a variety of hybrid rice.
Soon after, Zhang Munian left.
Accompanying him were a hundred thousand gold taels and fifty guards which had been provided by Wang Chong’s big uncle, Elder Ye, Duke of Hu, and group.
The group didn’t alarm anyone as they traveled silently to the south.
At the same time, two letters that Wang Chong wrote reached their respective recipients, Big Uncle Wang Gen and King Song, Li Chengqi.
The matter of demarcating a region for Zhang Munian to conduct his experiments was a small matter so he only had to inform them of it so that they could pass the required instructions down.
Yao Clan, King Qi, and the others also would not be bothered by something so minor over in the faraway Jiaozhi.
“I’ve already given you all that I can. Whether or not Great Tang will be able to survive the upcoming crisis will be up to you!”
Seated in his study, Wang Chong muttered to himself as he watched Zhang Munian disappear into the horizon.
He knew that he wasn’t the key to Great Tang’s survival in the upcoming ordeals.
Rather, it was banking on a fifty-year-old agriculture official.
Zhang Munian, the hope of Great Tang!