The Ministry of Agriculture will encourage the use of manure and reduce chemical fertilizers to make its agricultural industry more environmentally friendly and cost-efficient, according to plans announced on May 9.
The government would like to see 75 percent of the livestock manure nationwide reused, and wants 95 percent of intensive livestock farms to be equipped with manure treatment facilities, Ye Zhenqin, spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture, told a news conference.
About 40 percent of chemical fertilizers in China are used on fruit, vegetables and tea. The government plans to reduce the use of chemical fertilizers by 50 percent in key producing areas by 2020, Ye said, adding that 100 counties will be chosen as demonstration zones for replacing fertilizer with manure.
“With the growth in specialization, farmers now concentrate on either raising livestock or planting crops,” said Ma Youxiang, head of the ministry’s livestock production department. “This hinders the use of manure in planting, which used to be a common practice in China.”
Ma said 56 percent of China’s livestock comes from intensive farms. It’s not advisable to close these farms to get rid of pollution, as that would greatly affect the meat supply and people’s living standards. But manure is a good resource that can improve soil fertility and can also be used to produce green energy, Ma said.
Zeng Yande, head of the crop production department at the ministry, said replacing chemical fertilizers with manure is inevitable.
“To guarantee the supply of crops, a lot of chemical fertilizers have been used, which not only affected the environment but also increased the cost,” he said, adding that the country needs to reduce their use.
China uses an average of 561 kilograms of fertilizer per hectare of fruit orchard — twice that used in Japan and six times that of the United States. He said that 714 kg of fertilizer is used per hectare of vegetables, compared to 369 kg in Japan and 111 kg in the US.
Zeng said the use of manure could also improve the quality of produce.
“Many consumers feel that fruit and vegetables don’t taste as good as they once did. To some extent, this is because of the use of fertilizers. Experiments have shown that the appearance and quality of fruit can be improved if manure is used,” he said.