Friday, May 15, 2015

Rice farmers in China use less fertilizer, increase yield

GDRRI's Xuhua Zhong shows guests around rice plots in Gaoyao county, Guangdong, in which the 'three controls technology' was used.

Guangdong Province, China - “Rice farmers can decrease their nitrogen fertilizer and pesticide use by up to 20% and increase their yield by 10% by using the ‘three controls technology (3CT),’” said Xuhua Zhong of the Rice Research Institute of the Guangdong Academy of Agricultural Sciences (GDRRI).

Zhong shared these findings in Guangzhou during the May 2015 review and planning meeting of the CORIGAP (Closing rice yield gaps in Asia with reduced environmental footprint) project led by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). 3CT involves controlling the amount of fertilizer, unproductive tillers, and diseases and insects. “This technology is now being used by around 40% of farmers in Guangdong,” said Zhong.

Zhong explained that, aside from reduction in nitrogen fertilizer use, the core change that comes with use of 3CT is that it postpones fertilizer application from the early growth stage to the middle and late growth stages.

“With less fertilizer, the rice plant is sturdy, does not lodge, and is less prone to diseases such as sheath blight, so pesticide use is also reduced,” added Zhong. “Farmers can thus save on fertilizer, pesticide, and labor costs.”

The 10% increase in yield from the use of 3CT is equivalent to an added 0.6 tons per hectare, on average.

3CT could help China increase rice production in the face of multiple challenges. Since the 1990s, China has experienced low and unstable yields, excessive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, environmental pollution, and low profits, according to Zongyong Jiang, president of the Guangdong Academy of Agricultural Sciences. “These problems have become increasingly serious,” Jiang said.

In 2012, the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) recommended 3CT for use in rice farming, in line with MOA's move to reduce chemical fertilizer and pesticide use.

3CT is now widely adopted by rice farmers, according to Jiang. “Because of what has been achieved through 3CT, the research team headed by Xuhua Zhong was awarded the first-class Science and Technology Prize by the Guangdong provincial government,” Jiang reported. “In recent years, GDRRI has been working with the International Rice Research Institute to develop a low-carbon and high-yielding technology, which aims to further reduce fertilizer use. The new technology, a set of crop management practices, is expected to lessen water use and greenhouse gas emissions.”

“The CORIGAP project has been an excellent platform for the collaboration between GDRRI and IRRI,” Jiang said further.

“The extension of 3CT through partnerships under CORIGAP has been instrumental in reducing the yield gap in rice production from 39% to 21%. Most importantly, this increase in rice production is not only more profitable for farmers, the reduction in fertilizer and pesticide use is also an important plus for the environment,” reported Grant Singleton, IRRI principal scientist and CORIGAP coordinator.

“It is good to see the progress that they have done in China,” said Carmen Thönnissen, senior advisor for the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. “It is great to see more and more the integration of yield and sustainability, and finding ways of optimizing the whole production system in order to reduce the ecological footprint of rice as much as possible.”

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