When Li Wenhua stepped into his orange orchard one November morning, it was unlikely that he expected anything more than another routine day at work. The Chinese farmer lived just outside of Chengdu, in Southwest China, where the humid air can make winters unpleasantly cold. However, he was in store for more than bad weather that day.
Li was an ordinary farmer. His is one of the most prevalent surnames in China, second only to Wang, and it’s shared by over 100 million people worldwide. But while it was the surname of the emperors during the illustrious Tang Dynasty, Li couldn’t lay claim to any royal blood.
Being a citrus farmer, his thoughts were likely focused on ensuring a strong orange crop. Orchards throughout China had been hit by citrus greening disease that year, reducing their expected yields. But as he walked through his orchard, he moved closer to discovering something that would improve his fortunes regardless of the health of his trees.