Professor Tafu Yu: an eminent agricultural scientist and outstanding educator of our nation
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Prof. Yu was born in 1901 in a well-educated family in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province. At that time, China was suffering from domestic strife and foreign invasion, with weakness and poverty being the major issues. Prof. Yu’s parents hoped that their children could study different disciplines so that they can use their knowledge later on to rescue the country in different ways, such as science, education and industry. Prof. Yu gave up his original major in physics and chemistry and decided to study agriculture in order to solve the problems of poverty, backward agriculture and severe plant diseases for China. In 1924, he obtained his bachelor’s degree from the College of Agriculture in Nanjing Jinling University. During that time, he also worked as a teaching assistant. In 1928, Prof. Yu continued his study in Iowa State University in the United States and received his doctoral degree and a Golden-Key award in 1932. Then he became a member of the American Phytopathological Society and Sigma-Xi. He also received a “Phi Beta Kappa” award of the United States.
Prof. Yu was a pioneer of modern plant pathology and also the authority of plant bacteriology, plant virology, plant disease resistance breeding, disease physiology and other areas in China. He studied crops such as cereal crops, beans, fruit trees and vegetables, as well as crop pathogens including fungi, bacteria and viruses. He adopted the prevention and control strategies, including seed treatment, chemical prevention and control, cultivating disease-resistant varieties etc. Prof. Yu discovered that Urocystis tritici exhibited the characteristic of physiological differentiation and initiated the researches on physiological breedings in China. Prof. Yu published more than 110 research articles in international and domestic academic journals, 10 monographs and 8 translated articles. In the 1920s and 1930s, Prof. Yu investigated the breeding of disease-resistant cereal crops and seed disinfection methods, clarified the infection patterns of barley smut and stripe disease, bred crop varieties such as smut-resistant wheat, blight-resistant soybean, and blast-resistant rice. He also launched a study on the physiological strains of the smut fungus.
In 1940s, Prof. Yu was invited to teach in Tsinghua Agricultural Research Institute in Southwest Associated University in Kunming. At the time during the War against Japanese aggression, he conducted scientific researches under extremely difficult conditions. He discovered that Urocystis tritici displayed the characteristics of physiological differentiation and performed investigations on diseases that occurred during fruit storage. Concurrently, he also carried out a comprehensive study on the diseases that affected the millet and broad bean. Prof. Yu published numerous scientific papers which represent a classic literature of many critical plant diseases in China.
Besides devoting himself to agricultural researches, Prof. Yu was also dedicated to agricultural education. He was truly a prestigious and influential agricultural educator of China. After the victory of the Anti-Japanese War, Prof. Yu was appointed to rebuild the College of Agriculture in Peking University. He invited a large number of distinguished scholars from abroad to give lessons in the College of Agriculture, established a complete discipline framework and teaching management system and advocated a democratic and open minded education system. Prof. Yu’s patriotism was highly respected. He opposed the Kuomintang (KMT) reactionaries who suppressed students’ patriotic and democratic movement, and supported the patriotic activities of teachers and students. He rejected the invitation of Nanjing Kuomintang (KMT) government, remained unwaveringly in his position and protected the campus and properties of the university. Meanwhile, he accepted the invitation of the communist party, stayed with the teachers and students in the university and then transported important equipment to the liberated areas and resumed scientific researches there.
Prof. Yu, a highly respected scientist, has dedicated his entire life to the development of agriculture in China. He laid the foundation for plant pathology and agricultural microbiology in China. There is a famous Chinese proverb: It takes ten years to grow trees, but a hundred years to rear people. Prof. Yu not only imparted knowledge, but also educated his students how to behave. His spirit and exemplary roles influenced generations of young researchers and his prominent contributions to the development of China’s agriculture will never be forgotten.
- Qing N (2007) Teaching in agricultural microbiology for 70 years—Tafu Yu. Acta Microbiol Sin 47(1):6–7 (in Chinese, 执教农业微生物学70年——俞大绂, 微生物学报)Google Scholar
- Yu T (1951) Grape brown blotch disease. Sci Agric Sin 12:7–8 (in Chinese, 葡萄褐斑病, 中国农业科学)Google Scholar
- Yu T (1953) Implementing campestral sanitation work to eliminate the threat of diseases. Sci Agric Sin 10:411–414 (in Chinese, 展开田间卫生工作以减轻病害的威胁, 农业科学通讯)Google Scholar
- Yu T (1977) Significance of Fusarium fungi systematics. Acta Microbiol Sin 17(2):163–171 (in Chinese, 镰刀菌分类学的意义, 微生物学报)Google Scholar
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