Published: 13:41, October 1, 2023 | Updated: 13:40, October 1, 2023
Northeastern province makes headway on rural front
By Zhou Huiying and Tian Xuefei in Fujin, Heilongjiang

Agriculture modernized, harvests improved, tourism boosted

Early-maturing rice is harvested at Jiangchuan Farm in Heilongjiang. The province leads the nation in the amount of land devoted to planting rice, corn and soybeans. (PAN XIUPING / FOR CHINA DAILY)

As autumn approaches, areas of farmland in Heilongjiang province are turning golden and farmers are looking forward to another bumper harvest.

Last year, 77.6 million metric tons of grain were harvested in the province, accounting for 11.3 percent of the national total, National Bureau of Statistics data show.

The big data provided will be sent to an information platform in real time for use in managing rice growth and enhancing brand value.

Liu Jianguo, director of Qixi agricultural service center

With a pristine environment and the world's largest area of black soil, Heilongjiang leads the nation in the amount of land devoted to planting rice, corn and soybeans, boasting the highest annual yield of these crops nationwide.

President Xi Jinping, ending a three-day inspection tour to the northeastern province on Sept 9, urged it to act as a good stabilizer in safeguarding China's food security.

Xi, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, said Heilongjiang should promote its agricultural modernization and place greater emphasis on developing science and technology related to agriculture.

While the province should accelerate the construction of modern agricultural bases, enterprises and industries, Xi said it should also strive to take the lead in achieving modernization in agricultural equipment, technology, management, agricultural informatization and sustainable use of resources.

It is a priority for the province to develop its black soil into high-standard farmland and effectively protect it, he said.

Xi also emphasized the efforts made by Heilongjiang to advance the modern seed industry, promote the widespread use of advanced and appropriate technologies, high-end agricultural machinery, and improve the overall efficiency of grain production.

In recent years, Heilongjiang has focused on scientific and technological innovation, constantly made efforts to improve agricultural informatization and intelligence, and comprehensively advanced the use of digital technology in agricultural production to increase grain output and guarantee national food security.

A harvester operates at a plantation in Shuangyashan city, Heilongjiang province, this month. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

Zhou Dehua, who has worked the land at Qixing Farm, Fujin, on the Sanjiang Plain, a major rice-growing area in Heilongjiang, for more than 20 years, said modern farmers in the province are benefiting from the power of technology.

"Last year, I made a good profit from my 27 hectares of rice. With the help of modern agricultural technology and machinery such as unmanned rice planters and drones, I believe that this autumn I will see high-quality rice and high yields," he said.

"Take crop-dusting for example. In the past, we spent at least three days finishing a single round of operations on my 27 hectares of rice paddies. Now, with the help of plant protection drones, this work can be done in just two hours."

Liu Jianguo, director of the comprehensive agricultural service center at Qixing, a State-owned farm that is part of Jiansanjiang Co, a subsidiary of Beidahuang Agricultural Reclamation Group, said the farm boasts some 70,000 hectares of arable land for growing rice.

Since 2016, the farm has invested 80 million yuan ($10.9 million) in science and technology to change from traditional to modern agriculture, and then to intelligent agriculture.

"We have set up 200 monitoring points, 20 small weather stations and 20 sets of groundwater monitoring devices on our farmland," Liu said. "The big data provided will be sent to an information platform in real time for use in managing rice growth and enhancing brand value.

"We also use modern technology such as the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System, 5G, the internet of things and big data, along with environmental awareness to integrate deeply with traditional agricultural machinery technologies. We have achieved unmanned agricultural machinery operations for the entire process of rice farming, planting, managing and harvesting in our experimental rice fields, and our agricultural mechanization rate has reached 99.3 percent."

The Beidahuang Group has set up six unmanned experimental rice fields and is testing a range of new and advanced technologies, including the use of automated tractors and rice planters, remote video monitoring and control, and real-time displays of data and the movement of agricultural machinery. These measures are expected to save 25 percent of the cost of labor and agricultural materials.

The name Beidahuang is synonymous with the fertile region that includes the Sanjiang Plain, located alongside the Heilong and Nenjiang rivers in the north of Heilongjiang.

A traditional Korean dance is performed in Zhongxing village, Xi'an district, Mudanjiang, Heilongjiang. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

In 1947, before the People's Republic of China was founded, a group of military cadres from Yan'an and nearby Nanniwan in Shaanxi province led troops to this fertile region to develop what would later become the first State-owned farms.

In 1976, the Heilongjiang Agricultural Reclamation Bureau was founded, which in 2018 became the Beidahuang Group, marking a transformation from State management to a mix of collectivization and enterprise.

Thanks to generations of effort and sacrifice, Beidahuang has seen rapid rises in annual grain output — from 2,400 metric tons when it began farming to 22.56 million tons last year.

At the group's No 290 Company, 1,500 advanced agricultural machines, including a number of large ones equipped with the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System, have been brought in for this year's harvest. The company has bought 30 machines from well-known companies such as Case, Claas and John Deere this year.

Qi Yueqing, who planted 30 hectares of black soybeans this year, was excited when he first saw a huge Claas combine harvester standing in front of him.

"This newly purchased machine costs around 2 million yuan and it can harvest 50 hectares of corn or 80 hectares of soybeans every day," he said.

"It can save us a significant amount of harvesting time so that we can seize the best sale opportunities. After finishing work on our farm, the machine can help more farmers in surrounding areas."

By 2025, Beidahuang is expected to take the lead nationwide in realizing agricultural modernization, with the goal of achieving a comprehensive annual grain production capacity of 25 million tons.

Heilongjiang has also witnessed remarkable progress after years of efforts to protect its black soil. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization defines such soil as mineral soils with a black surface enriched with organic carbon at least 25 centimeters deep.

With its high density of organic matter, black soil is highly suitable for growing crops. However, long-term cultivation and the overuse of fertilizers have caused degeneration of this soil, threatening the local environment and grain production.

Faced with the loss of black soil due to intensive cultivation and the effects of wind and rain, the Heilongjiang authorities have taken measures such as covering the soil with straw after harvest, increasing the amount of organic fertilizer, and using crop rotation.

Since 2015, 20 pilot projects for the protection and use of black soil have been launched in Heilongjiang, covering an area of 348,400 hectares.

The average depth of topsoil on cultivated land in the province rose from 19.8 cm in 2014 to 23.3 cm in 2019, Heilongjiang Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs data show.

By 2030, the province aims to better protect 9.86 million hectares of black soil, and for its annual grain output to reach 80 million tons.

Contact the writers at zhouhuiying@chinadaily.com.cn