Scientists Experiment Seawater-Irrigated Agriculture

Chinese scientists are experimenting on irrigating crops with seawater in vast areas of coastal provinces, in an effort to help feed its huge population bothered by land and a fresh water shortages.

Since early 1990s, almost 300,000 hectares of alkaline land and mudflat stretching along the country’s coastline, covering Shangdong, Hebei, Guangdong and Hainan provinces, have been planting either wheat, rice or oil crops, which is unprecedented around the world.

Like killing two birds with one stone, developing seawater-irrigated agriculture is believed to be a way to create more farmland and lower irrigation cost.

China’s population accounts for one-fifth of the world’s total, but it only has 7 percent of the world’s arable land.

Professor Xia Guangmin with Shandong University estimated that another 40 million hectares of cultivated land, approximately one-third of the total of the land that can be cultivated in China, could be gained if all the alkaline land and beaches across the country can accommodate crops.

If all that extra land can be used for planting crops, 150 million tons of agricultural products could be yielded, about 30 percent of China’s yearly output.

In another aspect, seawater irrigation can mean a lot for China whose per capital possession of fresh water equals only about one-fourth of the world’s average.

( 12/24/2000)

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