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New techniques boost crop yields in the desert of Xinjiang, China
Date:2014.10.22 Source:China Daily

Agriculture is a fundamental industry for the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), and one in which it is a highly competitive player. The XPCC continues to build large-scale modern farms, which in 2013 grew a total of 1.47 million metric tons of cotton, accounting for 23.3 percent of the national total. 


A water-management company operated by the Corps has been experimenting with using drip-irrigation techniques to plant rice on dry farmland, which has resulted in higher yields than traditional planting methods. The new technology is due to be widely used across Xingjiang in 2015. 


The per-mu output of the 600 mu (40 hectares) of land used for the experiments has reached nearly 840 kilograms, much higher than the average 500 kilograms achieved by using traditional planting techniques, according to Chen Lin, deputy general manager of the Xinjiang Tianye Water-Saving Irrigation Co. 


The company, located in Shihezi, is the largest focused on water-saving irrigation technologies in the Corps and the region. Xinjiang is an arid area, and its water resources are distributed unevenly, a factor that has greatly limited local development. 


Unlike traditional flood-irrigation systems, drip irrigation, first developed in Israel, uses pipelines of differing diameters to carry water to plants, either to the immediate top soil or directly to the roots. The technique enables precise management of irrigation and fertilization. 


Rice has proved to be the most difficult crop to grow using the drip-irrigation technique among the more than 30 plants on which experiments have been conducted, including cotton, wheat, sugar cane and fruit trees, said Chen, who is also the head of the company's research team. 


Traditionally, rice is grown on flat land and requires a huge amount of water. However, the new technique means water usage can be reduced to about 700 cubic meters for each mu of land, less than one-third the previous amount, and ridged land is leveled to increase the planting area by 5 to 7 percent, Chen added. 


The lack of free-flowing water has resulted in a reduction of the impact of disease and insect pests, a factor that has been key to increasing output, he said. "Growing the rice on dry land also reduces the discharge of methane, which is good for the environment," he added. 


Farmers can add fertilizers and pesticides to the water at pump stations, reducing the amount of chemical residue in the plants and on the ground.

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