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OECD recently summarised the status of Chinas agriculture as follows (OECD 2005):

‘China’s agriculture is characterised by scarce land, abundant labour and small-scale production using little mechanisation.’… ‘Agricultural output per unit of land is high by international standards but output per worker is low.’…. ‘China’s use of fertilisers, at 280 kg per hectare, is one of the highest in the world.’ … ‘The overwhelming majority of crop production originates from tiny farms averaging just 0.65 ha (2005). While a large part of livestock production also comes from small, part-time “backyard” operations, full-time “specialised” household operations and commercial operations have grown rapidly’. …

China’s agricultural sector experienced high rates of growth since the beginning of the reform period. ‘The Household Production Responsibility System (HPRS), where families lease land for 30 years from the collectives, stimulated production, encouraged farmers to reduce costs, take risks, and enter new lines of production…. ‘Real rural income rose more than three-fold between 1980 and 2000.’ …

‘Per capita income in urban areas was 1.85 times that in rural areas in the mid-1980s, but by 2003 and 2004 the ratio had risen to 3.2, the highest over the whole reform period.’ …  

Recently, ‘the main policy objective shifted from ensuring basic supply with food and agricultural raw material to raising farmers’ incomes. (OECD 2005)

Water is a critical factor for agricultural production in China. The irrigation area makes up one-third of total cultivated fields, providing two-thirds of total grain products.’(Lui 2005)

Thus, China could not meet its grain self-sufficiency goals without the extend of irrigated agriculture in the North China Plain,  (Lohmar et al. 2003). A typical crop rotation segment is the follow up of wheat and maize. Due to the dry conditions during winter, mainly wheat depends on irrigated agriculture in the water-stressed regions of North China.’

In the Guanting area, Agriculture is the biggest regional water user and contributes heavily to the pollution of surface and ground water by high fertiliser application rates and triggered soil erosion as well.

The total arable land in the watershed is 20.000 km2 (Huang et al. 2003, cited from (Luo et al. 2007)).

The primary rock types are intermediate and acidic igneous; and the soil types are fluvo-aquic (FAS), calcareous-cinnamon (CCS), fluvo-cinnamon (FCS) and meadow-wind sandy (MWSS) (Gong et al., 2002, cited from Luo et al. 2007).

‘Land uses in the region include farms and orchards as well as fallow lands. Most areas are dedicated to agricultural cultivation, focusing mainly on corn and a variety of vegetables for cash crops. (Luo et al. 2007)‘

Important crops beside maize are wheat, oilcrops as rape, legumes as soybean, and rootcrops as potatoes. 

Irrigation accounts for approximately 80% of total water usage in the area. Irrigation water is predominantly wastewater. It was hypothesized (Chen et al. 2001) that this might have resulted in increased accumulation of heavy metals in soils (Luo et al. 2007).

More than 80% of the basins surface water is classified as polluted. The agricultural pollution contributes to it with a high average application rate of nitrogen fertiliser as typical for Northern China. There, less than 40% of the applied fertilizer is used by the crops, and vegetables show very high nitrate contents; thus the nitrate pollution of ground and drinking water is a serious problem in general.

Agriculture in the basin is under pressure to adjust the regional grown crop spectrum and varieties to existing production limits, to reduce the input of fertilizer and water, and at the same time to deliver a high agricultural output. Furthermore, it has to reduce the amplifying influence of the management regime. In wet years the flood risk is increasing due to the decreasing demand for irrigation, in dry years the concurring increasing use of irrigation worsens water scarcity.

(source: Wechsung, project proposal)

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