Faced with the task of reorganizing the largest agricultural research system in the world, officials in China are developing a strategy for reform. This paper investigates economies of scale and scope and other potential sources of improvements in the economic efficiency of crop breeding, an industry at the heart of the nation’s food economy. Using a panel data set covering 46 wheat and maize breeding institutes from 1981 to 2000, we estimate both single output and multiple output cost functions for the production of new varieties at China’s wheat and maize breeding institutes. Our descriptive and analytical results indicate strong economies of scale, along with small to moderate economies of scope related to the joint production of new wheat and maize varieties. Cost efficiency increases significantly with increases in the breeders’ educational status and with increases in access to genetic materials from outside the institute. Our results can help guide reformers in their efforts to increase the efficiency of China’s crop breeding system.