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 FC
College of Resources and Environmental Sciences, CAU, China 0.35
Huazhong Agricultural University (HZAU), China 0.04
College of Agronomy, SDAU, China 0.04
Institute of Agricultural Environment and Resources, SXAGRI CAAS, China 0.04
School of Resources and Environmental Science, NEAU, China 0.04
State Key Laboratory of Soil Erosion and Dryland Farming on Loess Plateau, ISWC CAS, China 0.04
Northwest A&F University (NWAFU), China 0.04
College of Resources and Environmental Sciences, NAU, China 0.02
Institute of Resources Environmental Sciences, Hebei Academy of Agricultural and Forestry Sciences, China 0.02
Institute of Plant Nutrition and Resource Environment, HNAAS CAAS, China 0.02
College of Plant Science, JLU, China 0.02
Shandong Academy of Agricultural Sciences, China 0.02
Rice Research Institute, GDAAS CAAS, China 0.02
College of Agriculture, HAU, China 0.02
School of Resources and Environment (SRE), Jilin Agricultural University, China 0.02
College of Resources and Environmental Science, YAU, China 0.02
Department of Resources and Environment, SHAU, China 0.02
College of Resources and Environmental Sciences, Henan Agricultural University, China 0.02
College of Agriculture, YZU, China 0.02
School of Resources and Environment, SWU, China 0.02
College of Resources and Environmental Sciences, AUH, China 0.02
Institute of Agricultural Resource and Environment, Jilin Academy of Agricultural Sciences, China 0.02
Soil and Fertilizer Research Institute, AHAAS CAAS, China 0.02
Soil and Fertilizer Research Institute, SAAS, China 0.02
Center for Animal Health and Productivity (CAHP), Penn Vet, United States of America (USA) 0.02

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