China Focus: High-tech empowers China's spring farming to ensure food security

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BEIJING, March 19 (Xinhua) -- In the wheat fields of Nanyukou Village, Cheng'an County, in north China's Hebei Province, farmers have given up the spring toil of spraying pesticides by hand, leaving it instead to agricultural drones.

"We used to work hard in the fields with 'face to the soil and back to the sky.' During the spring field management, one farmer could only spray pesticides over just over two mu (0.13 hectares) of cropland a day," said Yang Junshan, a farmer from the village.

"Now one worker, working inside the room with computers and mobile phones controlling drones, can spray pesticides over 6.6 hectares of farmland in just one hour," Yang said.

In Dongshuangta Village, Jize County, also in Hebei Province, smart seeders plant corn seeds with the guidance of the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) using pre-set data.

"The new machine can achieve straight-line sowing, with the same row and plant spacing, as well as planting depth," Li Feiyu, head of an agricultural machinery cooperative in Dongshuangta village.

The machinery can sow 6.6 hectares more land per day than the old machines, and can sow at least one more row of corn per mu, laying the foundation for increased grain output, said Chen Meng, an operator of the intelligent farm machinery.

Yan Fengbo, who hails from Guantao County of Hebei, uses a phone app for accurate field management, having already installed sensors on his land to monitor temperature, soil moisture and pests.

The digital system, which was launched in 2023, can help with the precise use of fertilizers and pesticides, and can issue early warnings for pests and diseases to help reduce costs and losses, Yan said.

Smart farming can not only reduce the cost of agricultural production, but also effectively solve the issue of unattended farmland, said Li Zhenfeng, deputy director of the Cheng'an county agriculture and rural affairs bureau.

This comes after Hebei has promoted the use of information technology applications, including the Internet of Things, AI and big data, to boost agricultural productivity and increase farmers' incomes, according to the provincial department of agriculture and rural affairs.

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.

China's farming sector has been going high-tech in recent years, with the country highlighting the role of sci-tech development to ensure food security and promote rural revitalization.

In northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, the country's top grain producer, the Jiamusi Jichi Tractor Manufacturing Co., Ltd. is producing smart farming machinery at full throttle to meet the demand for spring plowing.

Workers are installing intelligent screens and BeiDou intelligent terminals for high-horsepower tractors. With the help of a big data platform, farmers can remotely monitor the operation area and operation track of farm machinery.

The Heilongjiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences will soon introduce to the market a new gene-edited soybean variety, as the province seeks to increase its yield and planting returns. Last year, it grew around 4.9 million hectares of soybeans.

In the city of Tai'an, east China's Shandong Province, farmers use unmanned machinery for weeding in wheat fields. "Now unmanned weeders can cover this piece of land in just two hours, while the same work used to be done by five workers in one and a half days," said Xu Jianhua, who runs a local family farm.

Apart from modern farming machinery, the city of Changyi, Shandong, has also channeled river water to improve its saline-alkali soil. Sun Dedong, head of a local agricultural business entity, said they are also working with various research institutes to seek higher-yielding and drought- and salt-tolerant varieties.

In Zhangmu Township of Yulin, south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, there is an endless stream of farmers coming to buy new rice varieties at the local agricultural technology consultancy service center.

"The new varieties on sale are more lodging resistant, an important quality in our region with frequent rains. They can produce better rice with higher yields," said Zeng Zhenli, head of the center.

Earlier this year, China unveiled its "No. 1 central document" for 2024, outlining the priorities for comprehensively promoting rural revitalization this year. The document calls for efforts to strengthen the role of sci-tech development in promoting rural revitalization.

Data from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs shows that the contribution rate of China's agricultural science and technology progress reached 62.4 percent in 2022. Aided by increased contributions from agricultural machinery and technology, China secured a grain harvest of over 650 million tonnes for the ninth consecutive year in 2023.

Nationwide, the mechanization rate in crop plowing, planting and harvesting had risen from 67.2 percent in 2017 to 73 percent in 2022. China aims to further increase the rate to 75 percent by 2025. Enditem

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