Pursuing sustainable productivity with millions of smallholder farmers

Journal: Nature

Published: 2018-03-07

DOI: 10.1038/nature25785

Affiliations: 25

Authors: 46

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Research Highlight

China started small for huge farm yields

© Fei Yang/Moment Open/Getty

© Fei Yang/Moment Open/Getty

China has involved more than twenty million smallholder farmers in a ten-year effort to introduce new agricultural management practices, which has achieved major increases in average yields and decreased use of nitrogen fertilizers.

A research team, including scientists from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, first conducted small-scale trials across China’s major agricultural regions to develop programmes for improving farming practices tailored to local climate, soil nutrients and water availability.

A network of 1,152 researchers, with assistance from around 200,000 other personnel, helped 20.9 million farmers managing a total of 37.7 million hectares across 452 counties — ranging from arid deserts to humid subtropical environments —  to adopt the new practices. The result was a 10.8-11.5 per cent increase in average yields for maize, rice and wheat; a 14.7-18.1 per cent reduction in nitrogen fertilizer use; and significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions per tonne of grain. Overall, the improvements in grain harvests and reductions in fertilizer use were worth US$12.2 billion.

Supported content

  1. Nature 555, 363–366 (2018). doi: 10.1038/nature25785
Institutions Share
China Agricultural University (CAU), China 0.35
Huazhong Agricultural University (HZAU), China 0.04
Shandong Agricultural University (SDAU), China 0.04
Shanxi Academy of Agricultural Sciences (SXAGRI), CAAS, China 0.04
Northeast Agricultural University (NEAU), China 0.04
Institute of Soil and Water Conservation (ISWC), CAS, China 0.04
Northwest A&F University (NWAFU), China 0.04
Nanjing Agricultural University (NAU), China 0.02
Hebei Academy of Agricultural and Forestry Sciences, China 0.02
Henan Academy of Agricultural Sciences (HNAAS), CAAS, China 0.02
Jilin University (JLU), China 0.02
Shandong Academy of Agricultural Sciences, China 0.02
Rice Research Institute, GDAAS CAAS, China 0.02
Hunan Agricultural University (HAU), China 0.02
Jilin Agricultural University, China 0.02
Yunnan Agricultural University (YAU), China 0.02
Shihezi University (SHZU), China 0.02
Henan Agricultural University, China 0.02
Yangzhou University (YZU), China 0.02
Southwest University (SWU), China 0.02
Hebei Agricultural University (HEBAU), China 0.02
Jilin Academy of Agricultural Sciences, China 0.02
Anhui Academy of Agricultural Sciences (AHAAS), CAAS, China 0.02
Sichuan Academy of Agricultural Sciences (SAAS), China 0.02
University of Pennsylvania (Penn), United States of America (USA) 0.02