The Tale of Cray­fish-Rice Farm­ing Mode

—An Agri­cul­tural Revo­lu­tion in Modern China

Special Focus - - Contents - Ma Yalun, Wang Ben­lun & Zhang Ling 马亚伦王本伦张玲

—An Agri­cul­tural Revo­lu­tion in Modern China 潜江虾稻传奇 ——中国现代农业的一次革命

In cen­tral China’s Hubei Prov­ince ex­tends a vast low­land re­gion called Jiang­han Plain. With the low­est el­e­va­tion in the coun­try, it oc­cu­pies a fer­tile area of 46 thou­sand km ² . In the heart of it lies Qian­jiang, a mirac­u­lous city cov­er­ing an area of 2004 km². This city has been listed as one of the first Na­tional Modern Agri­cul­tural In­dus­trial Parks and the only one in Hubei.

The rea­son why we la­bel it “mirac­u­lous” is that it is abun­dant in grain yields ( mainly wheat and rice), ed­i­ble oil pro­duc­tion (mainly from rape­seed and cot­ton), nat­u­ral gas, and un­der­ground salt re­sources. Peo­ple here are hard­work­ing and good-na­tured and have been con­stantly cre­at­ing his­tor­i­cal achieve­ments by turn­ing this once eas­ily wa­ter­logged waste­land into a home­town of cray­fish, a hub of cray­fish- rice pro­duc­tion, a wet­lands town embed­ded in clus­ters of gar­dens, and a new site of pe­tro­leum pro­duc­tion. Among these mir­a­cles, I would like to talk about the tale of cray­fish-rice farm­ing mode.

The Cray­fish- Rice Farm­ing Mode is cre­ated by Qian­jiang agri­cul­tural work­ers. Cray­fish and rice—two un­re­lated species—have lived to­gether so har­mo­niously in Qian­jiang that it has trig­gered the at­ten­tion of govern­ments of each level. As the lo­cal cray­fish is end­ing up on the din­ner ta­bles of ev­ery coun­try, a new pro­duc­tion mode has been fos­tered rapidly. This new tech­nique is bound to be­come a widely- used form of bi­o­log­i­cal agri­cul­ture and will cer­tainly make tremen­dous con­tri­bu­tions to the de­vel­op­ment of the agri­cul­tural in­dus­try and food safety in China.

“The mode is a typ­i­cal ex­am­ple of Chi­nese modern agri­cul­ture, as well as a revo­lu­tion,” said Mr. Wang Wu, a pres­ti­gious pro­fes­sor of Shang­hai Ocean Univer­sity and an ex­pert of the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture.

Mo De­hai, the Pi­o­neer­ing Farmer

It was 3 pm, to­gether with his fam­ily and the helpers, as per usual, Mo De­hai was la­bor­ing in his fields of cray­fish and rice by Zhangjia Lake in Qian­jiang. As we ap­proached the field, Mo reached out his short and work- gnarled hands and shook ours. He was not so tall and had an up­right and sim­ple char­ac­ter. He was happy to hear us call him “Lao Mo.” (In Chi­nese cul­ture, ‘ lao,’ lit­er­ally ‘old,’ is a ti­tle of re­spect.)

“This is ex­actly our daily rou­tine. The cray­fish­ing goes from 2 am. And at 6 am, we send our catch to the mar­ket for sale.”

They had two meals a day and re­peated this kind of work ev­ery day. De­spite the hard work, Mo is al­ways mo­ti­vated. “We’ve got a lot of rice fields here, so we can only grow sin­gle- sea­son rice. Farm­ing in the tra­di­tional way could help us gen­er­ate prof­its of only more than 600 yuan on one

mu ( ap­prox. 0.165 acre or 666.5 square me­ters) of land. How­ever, the cray­fish- rice field makes the net profit over 3000 yuan.” Say­ing this, Mo could not help eyes from twin­kling with plea­sure.

Mo told us proudly that he was the first farmer to ex­per­i­ment with new pat­terns of farm­ing. Seven years ago, Wang Lecheng, the head of the farm, led more than ten farm­ers, in­clud­ing Mo, to learn the Rice- Cray­fish Farm­ing Mode on Bailu Lake Farm. When Mo came back home, he was de­ter­mined to ex­per­i­ment on the new farm­ing pat­tern by aban­don­ing the tra­di­tional one. Vil­lagers were not sup­port­ive to his idea, but he in­sisted. He rented 300 mu rice land from them and en­tered a con­tract un­hesi­tat­ingly with Liu Jun, the man in charge of the project.

Af­ter sev­eral years, see­ing that Mo had im­proved his liv­ing con­di­tions, vil­lagers re­trieved their rented fields from Mo and fol­lowed his path. Mo never hid any­thing and di­vulged all he knew to vil­lagers as an ex­pe­ri­enced tech­ni­cian of his farm. When his rel­a­tives went out as mi­grant work­ers, he rented their fields, whose to­tal acreage could sur­pass 150 mu. “There are just sev­eral of us who take care of all of these fields. It’s enough. We can’t af­ford any­more.” With some quick math in my head, I fig­ured out that he could def­i­nitely af­ford an Audi A6 car with his an­nual in­come, even if the work was toil­some.

“Rice grown in the rice-cray­fish farm­land is tasty and nu­tri­tious. We all like it. Even my nephew’s fam­ily, who lives in Wuhan, asks us to send it to them,” said one vil­lager named Liu Guoyun. Ac­cord­ing to her, this kind of rice tastes bet­ter and is bet­ter for the stom­ach, com­pared with that grown in tra­di­tional ways.

The Ori­gin of the Eco­log­i­cally Pro­duced Rice

“The Rice-Cray­fish Farm­ing Mode is eco­log­i­cally safe and nat­u­ral,” con­firmed Mr. Li Xiaop­ing, chief agron­o­mist of the Agri­cul­tural Bureau of Qian­jiang. The trans­for­ma­tion of its fields is rel­a­tively sim­ple: 20 to 40 mu of field con­sti­tutes a unit, along its perime­ter is a ditch 2 to 4 m wide and 1 to 1.5 m deep, with wa­ter in­let or out­let at each end of the field. In­side the ditch and in the field are trans­planted wa­ter­weeds such as Elodea nut­tal­lii. The preven­tion of pests mainly re­lies on phys­i­cal and bi­o­log­i­cal meth­ods, with lit­tle chem­i­cal preven­tion. Af­ter the har­vest, the straws are re­turned to the field. As a re­sult, less fer­til­izer is uti­lized.

The catch sea­son be­gins in l a t e Ma r c h a n d e n d s i n l a t e June, when it is hot. The rise of the wa­ter tem­per­a­ture drives the cray­fish to in­habit the deep­wa­ter ar­eas of the ditch. It is at this mo­ment that farm­ers drain away wa­ter slowly and trans­plant seedlings while drop­ping ex­tra young cray­fish. Then, around the pad­dies, farm­ers set up two lay­ers of net. In ev­ery mu of field, farm­ers place 20 15-day-old duck­lings, which leads to the co­ex­is­tence of rice and duck.

“When it comes to rice pro­duc­tion, food safety is a given pri­or­ity for ev­ery­one. Ducks co­ex­ist­ing with rice plants and cray­fish can re­duce the risk of dis­eases and pests,” ex­plained Mr. Liu Jun, pres­i­dent of Hubei Cray­fish Land Food Co., Ltd. “Three pests, stem bor­ers, rice worms, and rice plant hop­pers, threaten the growth of rice. The for­mer one is a lo­cal pest, liv­ing on the rice leaves and weeds and reeds; the lat­ter two are

mi­grat­ing pests from the south.” Two meth­ods are used for the killing stem bor­ers. One is to kill them by trap­ping. By way of so­lar fre­quency vi­brancy pest killing lamps, the pests nat­u­rally be­come the cray­fish or ducks’ food. The other method is to keep all the straws in the field. The rot­ten straws help de­com­pose the re­main­ing bor­ers and worms in the wa­ter, and the cray­fish swal­low down the dy­ing pest and the re­main­ing rice stub­bles. Fur­ther­more, the ducks swim back and forth in the rice field and ven­ti­late the plants so that the pests have to fly away or risk be­ing eaten by ducks. Be­sides, the ducks’ move­ment brings more sun­light and air to the rice plants. Ducks’ drop­pings are also a source of or­ganic fer­til­izer for the plants.

“The cray­fish-rice farm­ing pat­tern also im­proves the soil p r o p e r t i e s , ” Mr . C h e n K u n , d i r e c t o r o f N a t i o n a l Mo d e r n Agri­cul­tural Bureau of Qian­jiang, added. “Firstly, the co- ex­is­tence means a largely re­duced amount of pes­ti­cides and fer­til­iz­ers; se­condly, holes dug by cray­fish for their hi­ber­na­tion can avoid soil hard­en­ing and ben­e­fit the growth

of rice; thirdly, for the sake of dis­in­fec­tion and ster­il­iza­tion, farm­ers put lime in the field an­nu­ally to ame­lio­rate di­rectly the acid/al­ka­line balance of soil.”

The Agri­cul­tural De­part­ment of Qian­jiang is now in co­op­er­a­tion with rel­e­vant lo­cal key en­ter­prises to con­duct tech­ni­cal anal­y­sis on the rice qual­ity, ex­am­ine the phys­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics of the rice, set up the tech­ni­cal pa­ram­e­ters, and spec­ify the pro­duc­tion and check-up stan­dards, so as to guar­an­tee the stan­dard­ized pro­duc­tion of the cray­fish rice.

Bright Fu­ture of Qian­jiang’s Cray­fish-Rice In­dus­try

Qian­i­jang has been en­joy­ing a high rep­u­ta­tion as “the home­town of China’s cray­fish,” “No. 1 in ex­port­ing and pro­cess­ing cray­fish in China,” and “the home­town of China’s cray­fish rice.” Nat­u­rally, the cray­fish- rice in­dus­try has be­come the pillar in­dus­try of the lo­cal agri­cul­tural econ­omy.

In 2017, the value of the whole in­dus­try sur­passed 23 billion yuan, thus be­com­ing one of the first 11 “Na­tional Modern Agri­cul­tural In­dus­trial Parks” and 62 “Pre­dom­i­nant Ar­eas of Lo­cal Agri­cul­tural Spe­cial­ties,” the first in Hubei Prov­ince.

In 2010, the mu­nic­i­pal govern­ment formed a team of in­no­va­tors. Af­ter three years’ dili­gence and de­vo­tion, the team suc­ceeded in for­mu­lat­ing and ac­com­plish­ing the cray­fishe­co­log­i­cal farm­ing pat­tern, which won the Hubei Provin­cial In­no­va­tion Award and pro­duced ap­prox­i­mately 200 kilo­grams of cray­fish and 450 kilo­grams of rice per mu of field. The net re­turn of each mu fluc­tu­ated around 5000 yuan.

In 2013, the mu­nic­i­pal govern­ment be­came com­mit­ted to pro­mot­ing the cray­fish- rice eco­log­i­cal farm­ing pat­tern in Qian­jiang by giv­ing al­lowances ( 40 yuan/ mu and 200 yuan/ mu for poverty- stricken fam­i­lies) to farm­ers us­ing this tech­nique. In the years since 2014, newly de­vel­oped bases were sub­si­dized (40 yuan/mu). Cur­rently, cray­fishrice eco­log­i­cal farm­ing fields have cov­ered an area of 630 thou­sand mu.

Qian­jiang, the only Demon­stra­tion City of In­te­grated Farm­ing i n China, has the ul­ti­mate say over na­tional stan­dard­iza­tion in this field, since it has is­sued 14 stan­dards re­lated to the cray­fish- rice cul­ti­va­tion, breed­ing, pro­cess­ing, and ca­ter­ing. Fur­ther­more, a num­ber of rice va­ri­eties pro­duced through this new mode in Qian­jiang have been listed as na­tional green foods.

Qian­jiang has also es­tab­lished an aca­demic ex­pert work­sta­tion in co­op­er­a­tion with Mr. Zhang Hongcheng, an agri­cul­tural ex­pert, and worked closely with Hubei Academy of Agri­cul­tural Sci­ences on the screen­ing and breed­ing of high-qual­ity rice va­ri­eties.

At present, Qian­jiang is striv­ing to be­come a Na­tional Modern Agri­cul­tural In­dus­trial Park, fo­cus­ing on the es­tab­lish­ment of a cray­fish- rice farm­ing base, four cen­ters of big data, deal­ing, re­search­ing, and fine pro­cess­ing, as well as a fi­nan­cial aid plat­form for the cray­fish-rice in­dus­try. The in­dus­trial park project in­volves a to­tal in­vest­ment of 1.753 billion yuan and s u b s i d i e s f r om t h e cen­tral govern­ment amount­ing to 100 mil­lion yuan.

(Trans­la­tion: Zhu Jing­tian)

Aca­demi­cian Zhang Hongcheng (sec­ond from left) and Li Xiaop­ing, chief agron­o­mist of the Agri­cul­tural Bureau of Qian­jiang City (first from left) in­ves­ti­gat­ing cray­fish-rice fields 张洪程院士(前左二)和潜江市总农业师李小平(前左一)考察虾稻田建设情况


A Rus­sian guest tast­ing the rice


So­lar fre­quency vi­brancy pest killing lamp

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