CHANGCHUN - Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, on Wednesday stressed that effective measures must be taken to protect black soil.
Northeast China, one of the world's three major chernozem regions, is a major area for maize and soybean farming where black soil produces high yields but declining soil fertility remains a problem, Xi noted during an inspection tour in Jilin Province.
The northeastern region is a key industrial and agricultural base of the country. Last year, the provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning churned out 138.1 million tonnes of grain, accounting for more than one fifth of the country's total grain output. The region is regarded as a major granary for the nation.
According to a national land survey, Jilin has around 7 million hectares of black soil, accounting for 23.3 percent of the total black soil area in China.
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However, long-term cultivation and overuse of fertilizers have degenerated the soil, threatening the local environment and grain production.
In recent years, the growing use of modern agricultural technology and equipment, and better protection of black soil in the region have helped increase grain output and safeguard food security. China has been promoting conservational tillage to protect black soil. Straw mulching is a major method employed by the conservation program.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural affairs and the Ministry of Finance have jointly released an action plan (2020-2025) for protective tillage on black soil, with the program due to cover an area of 9.33 million hectares by 2025, or 70 percent of the total arable land in suitable areas of northeast China.
This year, 1.6 billion yuan (US$228.77 million) was allocated from the central budget to support the protective plan on 2.67 million hectares of farmland in Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces, as well as their neighboring Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
In many parts of Jilin Province, straw mulching helps reduce soil erosion and water evaporation and increase organic matter. This year, the conservational tillage program will benefit about 1.23 million hectares of farmland in Jilin, or more than 20 percent of its crop-growing land.
"Now the maize crops can grow deeper into the soil and are more drought- and lodging-resistant," said Yang Qingkui, head of an agricultural cooperative in Lishu County of Jilin with 15 hectares of farmland under the conservational tillage program.
Large-scale farming and greater use of agricultural technology and equipment are also helping transform agricultural production.
Local agricultural experts have promoted conservational tillage and also drip irrigation. "Drip irrigation can save at least 1,000 yuan on water and fertilizer for each hectare," said Zhang Zhihua, a farmer in Minle village in the city of Songyuan. Zhang and seven other villagers now plant over 860 hectares of farmland where more than 1,000 farmers used to toil.
"Our grain output can increase further with more large machinery and better pest- and grass-control technologies in place in the future," said another farmer Wang Qisheng.
Every year since 2004, the "No. 1 central document," the first policy statement released by central authorities, has been related to agricultural and rural development, highlighting the importance the government places on the agricultural sector.
Despite the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic, China, which feeds nearly 20 percent of the world's population with 9 percent of the world's arable land, has reaped a bumper summer grain harvest.
China's summer grain output reached a historic high of 142.81 million tonnes this year, up 0.9 percent from last year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
As the world's top food producer and consumer, China saw its grain output reach a record high of 664 million tonnes last year, the 16th bumper year in a row. The record-breaking summer grain harvest has paved the way for another bumper year.
Ma Zhanyou, a farmer in Yushu City, Jilin, runs an agricultural cooperative which is a demonstration site for conservational tillage. The cooperative grows more than 300 hectares of maize crops.
This year, he plans to buy 300 cattle. The maize straw can be processed into fodder for the cattle while their dung will serve as organic fertilizer for the cropland.
"In this way, we realize the recyclable development of agriculture. We will register our own brand and promote organic crops to realize high return in production," Ma said.
HONG KONG NEWS