The Tale of Crayfish-Rice Farming Mode
—An Agricultural Revolution in Modern China
—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