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China's spring farming goes high-tech to ensure food security

Pub Date:2021-03-18 09:42 Source:Xinhua

Luo Yingdi, 50, has been busy spraying pesticide in wheat fields for over a month, covering about 67 hectares of land per day with the help of his agricultural spraying tractors.

"I have six agricultural sprayers and two drones to spray pesticide and herbicide. Seven employees from my agricultural service company do the spraying work," said Luo, who has been farming for 21 years in Yingshang County, east China's Anhui Province. Besides looking after his own 53 hectares of farmland, he also provides the spraying service to other farmers.

The spring equinox, or Chunfen in Chinese, the fourth solar term in the Chinese lunar calendar, falls on March 20 this year. After the spring equinox, the days get longer, the weather becomes warmer, and plants start to grow fast.

Around the time of the spring equinox, a major season for farming in China, farming activities are in full swing across the country, from the north to the south.

In northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, Li Fuqiang, 38, has stored enough fertilizers and soybean seeds for the upcoming spring plowing. Li, who was awarded the title of "Soybean Master" in the province in 2018 for planting quality soybeans, plans to plant 3,333 hectares of non-GMO quality soybean this year.

Heilongjiang is China's largest soybean-producing region, accounting for about half of the country's total soybean acreage. The soybean acreage in the province exceeded 4.66 million hectares in 2020 and will remain stable this year, according to the provincial department of agriculture and rural affairs.

UPGRADING AGRICULTURE

To complement the use of large agricultural machinery and even drones, Chinese researchers have developed a number of high-tech products to help farmers get better access to agricultural know-how, use intelligent management platforms, and better control pests and plant diseases.

"I learned how to make better use of fertilizers and herbicides by watching an agricultural livestreaming show. I'm confident that I'll have a good harvest this year," said Jiang Deying from Baoqing County of Heilongjiang Province.

On Hongwei Farm of Heilongjiang Province, the use of an intelligent agriculture platform supported by a monitoring system can increase the rice yield by about 5 percent while also reducing the use of fertilizers by about 7 percent, said He Peixiong, director of the farm's agriculture department.

In Changfeng County of Anhui Province, a group of researchers rummaged through every inch of a wheat field, holding a selfie stick-like device upside down to look for pests.

The early identification and control of pests and plant diseases is critical to guaranteeing crop growth. Agricultural scientists developed the pest recognition tool to help farmers handle pests more precisely.

A camera is installed on one end of the device to capture images of pests and plants' growing conditions. There are also sensors that record the real-time temperature and moisture of the field. All the data is uploaded to and processed in the background server, so as to evaluate the potential damage from pests and thus offer related solutions to farmers.

"We developed pest-recognition software to analyze pictures the device takes in the fields and then tell farmers what kinds of pests they have to deal with," said Du Jianming, a researcher of the Institute of Intelligent Machines, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

After nine years of data collection, over 1 million pictures of various pests and crop diseases have been captured. The tool can be applied in different crop fields including wheat, rice, corn and soybean, with an accuracy rate of up to 85 percent. So far, it has been adopted in more than 10 provinces, according to the institute.

ENSURING FOOD SECURITY

In a bid to identify the ideal rice varieties for Heilongjiang, a team headed by Nie Shoujun, from the Heilongjiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences, conducted a series of experiments. After years of efforts, a number of high-quality varieties featuring high yields and better resistance to disease and lodging have been cultivated.

"Cultivating high-quality varieties with independent intellectual property can help enhance China's agricultural competitiveness, so as to ensure the country's food security," said Nie.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the world, many countries have restricted grain exports, putting the global food supply chain at great risk. The number of people suffering from hunger is on the rise.

China reaped a bumper harvest last year despite the impacts of the COVID-19 epidemic, typhoons, floods and droughts, with an annual grain yield of 669.5 million tonnes. The country has shown the capability to feed its population and withstand threats to grain production.

This year marks the beginning of China's 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-2025). China's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs has urged all provincial-level regions to either maintain or increase their crop planting area to make sure the country's total grain output stays above 650 million tonnes a year.

Heilongjiang Province plans to add 100,000 hectares of crop acreage this year, according to the provincial department of agriculture and rural affairs.

China has secured a bumper harvest for 17 years in a row, with its annual grain output exceeding 650 million tonnes for six consecutive years, boosting the country's confidence in fighting the COVID-19 epidemic and developing the economy, said Li Guoxiang with the Rural Development Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

By meeting its domestic grain demand and reducing grain imports while moderately increasing the exports of wheat and rice, China is making a contribution to the world in terms of reducing global food security risks, Li said.

Editor:Fanxi Feng

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