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Science and technology innovation drives China’s agricultural development

By Gao Yuncai, Chang Qin (People's Daily)    09:21, October 17, 2019

In 2018, China’s annual output of grain reached 657.9 billion kilograms, 4.8 times more than that in 1949, with an average annual growth standing at 2.6 percent.

China’s agriculture sector is seeing a transformation from the traditional crop production-dominated pattern to a modern one featuring comprehensive development of farming, forestry, animal husbandry, and fishery, as pointed out by Ye Xingqing, head of the rural economy research department of the Development Research Center of the State Council.

China has constantly optimized its agricultural structure, which is both a prominent symbol of its agricultural development and an inevitable requirement of modern development, said Ye.

“Next, we will put more efforts to improving the quality and efficiency of the agricultural supply system so as to better meet the various needs of the people,” said Zhu Qizhen, chief of the institute of farmer research, China Agricultural University.

According to statistics, the use intensity of China’s farmland has decreased, while the nutrient content in the soil has witnessed steady growth, with the average content of organic matter rising to 24.3 grams per kilogram of soil.

“Agricultural resource use intensity has fallen to a lower level, which enables China to enjoy a stronger momentum of green development,” said Ye.

More land has employed the water-saving irrigation system and less chemical fertilizers and pesticides are used, he noted. Meanwhile, disadvantageous production areas and low-quality and low-efficiency ones are on a decrease. China has witnessed significant changes in its concept of agricultural development.

In the future, China will further improve the efficiency of its agricultural production mainly through intensive agricultural operations in an effort to transform its agricultural production mode, said Wei Houkai, director of Rural Development Institute of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

In 2018, the plowing, sowing and harvesting of over 67 percent of China’s staple crops were completed by machines, and the percentage hit 80 for staple grain crops.

China has constantly improved total factor productivity of its modern agriculture and is experiencing profound reform in its agricultural production mode.

 “Agricultural mechanization has freed a great number of farmers from high-intensity manual labor, therefore facilitating the rapid development of industrialization and urbanization while lowering the labor cost of agricultural production,” Ye pointed out.

He added that science and technology have also significantly increased the crop yield per unit area of land. They contributed to 58.3 percent to China's agricultural growth in 2018, up by 10.3 percentage points from 2005.

In addition, China’s average grain yield had increased to 375 kilograms per mu (667 square meters) in 2018 from 88 kilograms per mu in 1952.

Now, many innovative technologies can be seen in the fields, such as large-size tractors, and unmanned aerial vehicles.

By transforming cutting-edge scientific and technological achievements into productivity, agricultural machinery makes production easier and brings more profits, said Zhu.

To transform agricultural production mode mainly depends on science and technology innovation, Wei pointed out. He believes it is necessary to further specify the priorities and focuses of agricultural innovation, and enhance the research and development as well as application and popularization of agricultural technologies.

On one hand, the country should constantly improve the core competitiveness of its agriculture sector; on the other hand, it should promote the development of smart agriculture, he said.

Over the past 70 years, China has witnessed historic changes in its mode of high-quality agricultural development with significantly improved efficiency, economic benefits and quality.

New types of business entities are emerging in the country’s agricultural industry and there are more professional farmers who are well-educated and have broad knowledge about agricultural techniques and business management.

By the end of 2018, the number of specialized farmers’ cooperatives registered in China reached 2.17 million, while the number of family farms in the country was about 600,000.

A total of 7.8 billion people had returned their hometowns or went to the rural areas to make innovations and start their own businesses.

An important criterion to judge whether a country’s agriculture is modern is the wide adoption of advanced operation, as well as advanced management techniques and methods, said Zhu.

Such progress calls for attracting and educating more well-trained farmers while promoting the modernization of agriculture, he added.

In recent years, the agriculture industry has constantly expended its boundary. Leisure agriculture, landscape agriculture and multifunctional agriculture are emerging quickly. It is gradually integrating with secondary and tertiary industries such as catering and accommodation.

With the integration of rural and urban development, the deepening integration of primary, secondary, and tertiary industries, and the extensive application of information technology, the new industries, businesses, and models in the rural area will enjoy a sound momentum of development.

In 2018, the value added of the new industries, businesses and models in China’s primary industry reached 622.7 billion yuan (about $87.67 billion), accounting for 9.6 percent of the total value-added output of the sector. The figure is expected to embrace higher growth in the years to come. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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