Whether agriculture is well developed, the countryside beautiful and the farmers rich, will determine the success of building a moderately prosperous society and the quality of China’s socialist modernization drive, President Xi Jinping said on March 8 at a panel discussion with deputies from east China's Shandong Province at the first session of the 13th National People's Congress (NPC). Chen Baoshan, an NPC deputy, professor at Guangxi University and Director of State Key Laboratory for Conservation and Utilization of Subtropical Agro-Bioresources based in southwest China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, told Beijing Review that science and technology must be used for the development of agriculture so that farmers can get rich through innovation.
According to Chen, a former senior researcher with the University of Maryland involved in agricultural studies, Guangxi supplies 60 percent of the edible sugar in China, assuming great responsibility in ensuring the safety of the country’s sugar supply. Improving sugarcane yield has thus been central to Chen’s work. In recent years, the sugarcane yields have been raised from 3-4 tons per mu to 6-7 tons per mu (1 hectare = 15 mu). Chen, focusing on the research of the viruses that affect these plants, has bred new varieties of sugarcane with higher quality and better yields. “Through innovation, we have raised the yield to 10-12 tons per mu, and the figure is likely to be 15-20 tons per mu in the future,” said Chen.
At present, a farmer earns less than 1,000 yuan ($158) from each mu by planting sugarcane. “Since the cost for growing sugarcane is comparatively fixed, if the yield can be doubled, farmers’ income will be more than double,” said Chen. “I feel proud seeing that my research is applied to increasing the income of farmers.”
Peng Shihua, an NPC deputy and Party Secretary of Pingzhai Village, Ziyuan County of Guangxi, is one such beneficiary getting rich from innovations in science and technology.
Five years ago there had been only dirt roads and no access to electricity in Pingzhai Village. Farmers had to walk half an hour to collect water and bring it home. Now paved roads have been built to connect the village with surrounding towns, and every family has access to electricity and water.
Located in a remote mountain area, Pingzhai Village sits at altitude and its water resources are unpolluted, allowing the village to grow pollution-free vegetables and develop organic agriculture. Peng, 35, used to work for a vegetable wholesale market and returned to his hometown to plant peppers after seeing that how well peppers sold at the market. As the size of his crop expands, more villagers have followed his lead in growing peppers, even electing Peng as the Party secretary of the village.
The villagers are also beginning to plant tomatoes. Establishing a cooperative, they signed a contract with a vegetable company and plant vegetables according to the demand of the company. “Many villagers who had planned to work in cities now choose to stay home and grow green vegetables because the industry is so promising,” Peng said.
According to Peng, tomatoes are planted in more than 66.67 hectares of arable land in the village. The yield used to be determined by the weather and if there was too much rain or too much sun, tomato output would be seriously reduced. With the support of the local agricultural bureau, the village has built rain shelters for tomatoes, so that the farmers need not worry about fertilizer being washed away by the rain.
"Tomato yields are secure and the costs have been reduced for growing tomatoes," said Peng. "Tomatoes planted in rain shelters are 1-2 yuan ($0.16-0.32) more per kilogram than those planted in ordinary ways, and this year our tomatoes are of good quality and sell well."Peng himself also plants tomatoes in about half a hectare of land, and in years of harvest he can earn 50,000-60,000 yuan ($7,899-9,479). He also raises over 20 cattle, with beef selling at 130 yuan ($20.54) per kg, and he can earn a lot of money from this as well.
According to Peng, a total of 135 people from 37 households in his village, which has a population of over 2,100, were lifted from poverty though growing green vegetables last year, and the rest of the people in poverty are expected to get rid of poverty this year.
"The farmland in our village is fertile, so we will definitely eliminate poverty as long as people are diligent," Peng said.
Copyedited by Laurence Coulton
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