New farm­ing tech­niques to be adopted to safe­guard re­main­ing land, im­prove lo­cal ecol­ogy and yields

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - POLICY REVIEW - By HU YONGQI huy­ongqi@chi­

For Fan Yuesh­eng, us­ing more fer­til­izer does not mean greater yields from his 10 hectares of farm­land, where nu­tri­ent-rich black soil has been in­creas­ingly eroded as the 55-year-old in sub­ur­ban Dan­dong, Liaon­ing prov­ince, strug­gles to en­sure a liveli­hood.

Like many other ru­ral ar­eas, young peo­ple in Fan’s home­town have fled to big cities look­ing for jobs and the neigh­bors left are al­most all el­derly. Farm­ing is Fan’s main area of ex­per­tise.

Fac­ing a water short­age, Fan had to dig a well to pump out un­der­ground water, which has made it even more dif­fi­cult to pro­tect the pre­ciously fer­tile black soil, he said. Water sup­plies are also be­ing de­pleted.

Fan is not alone in his dilemma. The sit­u­a­tion has chal­lenged millions of farm­ers in North­east China, ac­cord­ing to the Guide­line on Pro­tect­ing Black Soil in North­east China (2017-30), which was jointly re­leased re­cently by the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture and five other min­istries.

The new doc­u­ment sets to safe­guard the re­main­ing land with black soil while im­prov­ing the lo­cal ecol­ogy and en­sur­ing yields. By 2030, North­east China’s 16.67 mil­lion hectares of black soil will be bet­ter pro­tected to im­prove fer­til­ity, ecol­ogy and farm­ing fa­cil­i­ties to yield greater pro­duc­tion, the guide­line said. The qual­ity of black soil will be sig­nif­i­cantly im­proved while eco­log­i­cal set­tings in the re­gion have been tar­geted to im­prove.

When the guide­line is car­ried out, some black-soil farm­land will be turned into forests, grass­lands and wet­lands. New farm­ing tech­niques, in­clud­ing water con­ser­vancy projects, will be in­tro­duced to re­duce con­sump­tion and keep such land even more fer­tile. New mod­els of pro­duc­tion, such as ro­ta­tion be­tween grain and bean, will also be in­tro­duced to lessen the stress on the land.

Mean­while, large farms will be en­cour­aged to use trac­tors to re­duce cost and pro­long fal­low farm­land.

The re­gion, in­clud­ing Liaon­ing, Jilin and Hei­longjiang prov­inces and the east­ern part of the In­ner Mon­go­lia au­ton­o­mous re­gion, pro­duces about one quar­ter of China’s grain yields each year. Ac­cord­ing to data from the sec­ond na­tional sur­vey on land in 2009, the re­gion’s black soil cov­ers 18.53 mil­lion hectares.

Over the past few decades, black soil, which has ex­isted for thou-

Land with black soil is now less pro­duc­tive and with­out ac­tion, it could face even greater ero­sion.” Wang Daowen, Re­searcher, Chi­nese Academy of Sciences

Pol­icy di­gest

sands of years in North­east China, has eroded partly due to ex­ces­sive recla­ma­tion, and threat­ens bi­o­log­i­cal di­ver­sity and sus­tain­able food pro­duc­tion, the guide­line said.

The doc­u­ment said the pre­vi­ously sta­ble mi­cro-eco­log­i­cal sys­tems had been breached by long-term farm­ing and overuse of fer­til­iz­ers and pes­ti­cides. Mean­while, the ex­pan­sion of rice-grow­ing in the re­gion has drained much of the un­der­ground water.

On top of this, floods and wind have added to the rate of ero­sion. Over the past 60 years, or­ganic mat­ter dropped by more than 30 per­cent on av­er­age, ac­tu­ally down by 50 per­cent in some places. Fan be­lieved the guide­line will be a turn­ing point and give him new hope if prop­erly im­ple­mented.

“A con­sen­sus has been reached that land with black soil is now less pro­duc­tive, and with­out ac­tion, it could face even greater ero­sion,” said Wang Daowen, a re­searcher at the In­sti­tute of Ge­net­ics and De­vel­op­men­tal Bi­ol­ogy at the Chi­nese Academy of Sciences.

Wang said the struc­ture of farm­ing in North­east China should be ad­justed to adapt to lo­cal con­di­tions by con­trol­ling crops that con­sume too much water, such as rice and corn. In that way, black soil will re­tain its mois­ture and with­stand wind, he said.

Mean­while, the re­gion should also in­tro­duce other high-yield crops, which con­sume less water, fer­til­iz­ers and pes­ti­cides, to re­duce cost and im­prove the qual­ity of agri­cul­tural goods in ad­di­tion to re­duc­ing chem­i­cal con­tam­i­na­tion in black soil, the re­searcher added.

Wang also sug­gested es­tab­lish­ing an on­line plat­form for black­soil pro­tec­tion where farm­ers can share in­for­ma­tion on new agri­cul­tural tech­nolo­gies and more ef­fi­ciently buy pro­duc­tion ma­te­ri­als and sell goods. The plat­form can help avoid rep­e­ti­tion and waste dur­ing pro­duc­tion and lo­gis­tics, which will also be ben­e­fi­cial to pro­tect­ing black soil, he said.

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