IAE Provides Technical Support to Promote Conservation Tillage in Liaoning Province
In 2019, Vice Premier HU Chunhua twice inspected the conservation tillage status in Northeast China. Soon afterwards, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs and the Ministry of Finance jointly issued “Black Land Conservation Tillage Initiative in Northeast China (2020-2025)”. According to which, by 2025, the area of conservation tillage will reach 140 million Mu, accounting for about 70% of Northeast China's total cultivated area, and a relatively complete policy and technical support system will be built.
ZHANG Xudong leads a conservation tillage research team at the Institute of Applied Ecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences. They developed a conservation tillage technical system which features straw mulching and no-till techniques. This technical system provides a vigorous support for the implementation of conservation tillage in Northeast China.
Remarkable achievements after more than ten years of research
Since 2007, these IAE scientists have been conducting conservation tillage research and technical demonstration, aiming at the control of the degradation of black soil in Northeast China. To date, these scientists have formulated a set of mechanized conservation tillage mode that is suitable for black soil areas in Liaoning and Jilin provinces.
Conservation tillage mode has four major advantages compared to the traditional maize cultivation mode: (1) It enhances soil drought resistance and water retention. This role is equivalent to an increase of 40 mm to 50 mm of precipitation, which is extremely valuable for Liaoning province where is subjected to spring drought nine out of ten years. (2) It increases soil nutrients. It is estimated that returning straw to the field can increase soil organic matter by about 0.1% per year, and can increase soil nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. (3) It helps protect the environment and the soil, reduce floating sand and dust, reduce soil erosion by water and wind, and avoid air pollution caused by straw burning. (4) It saves costs and increases farming efficiency. For example, it reduces the use of chemical fertilizers by 20% to 25%, reduces labor force input by 30%, decreases costs of more than 1,000 yuan per hectare and at the same time increases crop production by 5% to 10%.
Footprints covering maize planting area in Northeast China
When their conservation tillage techniques were almost mature, ZHANG Xudong, XIE Hongtu and their colleagues walked out of their experimental fields and spent roughly 4 months each year from 2010 onward, visiting the 61 demonstration bases of Northeast China's maize planting area, promoting no-till techniques and giving lectures from one county to another. To facilitate the promotion of relevant techniques, they formulated a set of technical regulations, and taught farmers how to use the new techniques. It is estimated that as of the end of 2019, their conservation tillage techniques have been successfully applied in maize fields of more than 15 million Mu in Northeast China's maize planting area.
According to our country's planning, the area of conservation tillage should reach 8 million Mu in Liaoning Province this year, which is not an easy task. To assist local authorities to complete their tasks, the conservation tillage research team of IAE has actively participated in the establishment of the conservation tillage demonstration network in Liaoning Province, and the formation of the “3 in 1” technical paradigm consisting of scientific institutes, agricultural departments and agricultural machinery (or farmer) cooperatives. At present, six core demonstration areas and twenty conservation tillage demonstration sites have been established in Shenyang, Tieling and other cities, covering a total area of more than 6 million Mu across the entire maize planting area in Liaoning province.
Making farmers rich by promoting new agricultural technology
Early April is the golden period for spring cultivation in Northeast China, but it is a tough time this year (2020) because the novel coronavirus pneumonia (Covid-19) epidemic has just taken a turn for the better. Just then, scientists from the IAE Conservation Tillage Research Team came to the fields in Changtu, Liaozhong, Xinmin and other counties in Liaoning Province to check the effects of conservation tillage, and to solve problems found in 2020 spring cultivation period with the local agricultural departments and the cooperatives.
On the farmland of Liangzhongqiao Town, Changtu County, Tieling City, Liaoning Province, multiple no-till seeders of Shengtai Agricultural Machinery Cooperative have begun to carry out no-till maize sowing and fertilization operations. Since adopting conservation tillage techniques in 2012, the cooperative has successfully solved the problem of large-scale straw treatment. Farmers in the cooperative find that the no-till mode indeed increases soil moisture- and nutrient-levels, improves seedling emergence rates, increases crop production, and is suitable for large-scale mechanized operations. The cooperative is thus of confidence to rent more land and purchase multiple sets of no-till seeders. Currently, the cooperative applies the new technology on 20,000 Mu of farmland. According to calculations, the average cost saving is more than 100 yuan per Mu.
The cooperative is only a miniature of the application of conservation tillage in Northeast China. Conservation tillage has shown its advantages and received great welcome from local authorities, enterprise cooperatives and farmers in Northeast China. It also attracted widespread attention from media. CCTV (China Central Television), Liaoning Satellite Television, Liaoning Daily, China News Network and other media have reported IAE's action on promoting conservation tillage.
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