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   1 Workshop on Environment, Resources, and Agricultural Policies in China 19-21 June 2006, Beijing Session 3. Policy options for China FERTILIZER USE IN CHINESE AGRICULTURE By CHEN Mengshan Director, Department of Crop Production, Ministry of Agriculture, China Abstract This paper presents a retrospective analysis of the history of fertilizer use in China, discusses the significance of fertilizers in the development of the national agricultural sector, and assesses the present situation and existing problems. We also consider measures to improve fertilizer resource utilization rates to the end of promoting the development of sustainable agriculture in China. Keywords: fertilizer use, present situation, strategies Foreword Fertilizers are an important element of the means of agricultural production, and make a significant contribution to development in the national agricultural sector and to safeguarding the nation’s food security. In order to bring about a scientific approach to development and build a conservation-oriented, environmentally-friendly society, the government of China has proposed new approaches to fostering economic growth and improving the overall productive capacities of the agricultural sector. Initiatives in this respect include the promotion of water-saving techniques in irrigation, the scientific use of fertilizers, pesticides and similar resources, and vigorously supporting sustainable agriculture. China’s Ministry of Agriculture and related agencies have also adopted practical and effective measures to implement, on a nationwide basis, soil testing programmes to devise fertilizer formulas specific to local conditions. Technical subsidies are available for these programmes and related services are provided to farmers free of charge. Farmers are also strongly encouraged to use organic fertilizers in the nation’s efforts to resolve the current low fertilizer utilization rates and put in place a scientific system for fertilizer use that is adapted to China’s own situation. Historical Overview of Fertilizer Use in China China boasts an agricultural tradition that stretches to the most remote antiquity, with the essence of that tradition to be found in meticulous farming methods and the understanding of soil nutrients. As long ago as the Western Zhou dynasty (c. 1000 – 771 BCE) the  Zhou Li texts advocated that “ marshland grasses be killed to plant wheat  ”, while the contemporaneous  Book of Odes (Shi Jing) records the use of organic fertilizers in the verse, “ These weeds being decayed, the millets grow luxuriantly .” In the Spring &   2 Autumn and Warring States periods, the use of organic fertilizers became more widespread, while the Fuguo  chapter of the philosophical treatise  Xunzi  advocates “ generous manuring of the fields ” and “ the necessity of manures and irrigation to draw harvests from the fields .” The Chen Fu Book of Agriculture  of the Song Dynasty (960+ CE) notes that “adding new fertility to the soil is done with manures ” so that the “  powers of the earth are ever renewed  .” An agronomical treatise of the Yuan Dynasty (1279+ CE), meanwhile, goes so far as to advocate “ treasuring manure as you treasure gold  ”, which raises the concepts of fertilizing and nurturing the soil to unprecedented levels of importance. Later, the  Zhiben Tigang  of the Qing Dynasty (1644+) describes the linkages of fertilizer use to advances in crop productivity and soil quality, observations which descend directly from the “ earth becomes manure, manure becomes earth ” dialectic of the  Zhou Li Situ chapters of 2,000 years earlier. These principles and practical measures have guaranteed the multiplication and social progress of China’s peoples and had an important positive influence on the enduring Chinese civilization. Chemical nitrogen fertilizers were first introduced to Chinese agriculture in 1901 when the Japanese occupiers of Taiwan of the time began to experiment with their applications to sugarcane farming. Use of these fertilizers gradually spread inland from the coastal areas over the following years, but as there were at the time no domestic manufacturers and all supplies needed to be imported, and in view of various other primarily economic factors, the speed of advance was slow and quantities used small. After the founding of the People's Republic, the government of China attached great importance to fertilizers and their use along scientific lines. In 1955, Comrade Mao Zedong drew on the agricultural experiences of the various regions of the country to draft personally a  National Plan for Agricultural  Development in 40 articles that proposed 12 measures for improving crop productivity. These included increasing the use of fertilizers. When promulgated in 1956, the draft  National Plan for Agricultural  Development   put particular emphasis on deep tillage and soil improvement, and the increased use of organic fertilizers. In 1957, the National Chemical Fertilizer Experimentation Network was set up, and the State published the Guidelines for Deep Tillage and Soil Improvement   and Guidelines regarding Fertilizer Problems , which stressed the important effect increased use of organic fertilizers in soil improvement schemes would exert on crop productivity. In 1959, Comrade Mao Zedong made the further recommendation that, “China’s first source of fertilizers should be the raising of pigs and cattle. If we can raise one pig per person, one pig per mu , the main source of fertilizer is settled. A pig is a small organic fertilizer factory. Fertilizers are the foodstuffs of plants, plants are the foodstuffs of animals and animals are the foods of humans.” This succinctly stated the relationships that link the soil, plants and animals in ecological cycles. The 3rd Plan for National Economic and Social Development proposed by Comrade Deng Xiaoping in 1963 aimed to establish in first priority 500 million mu  of stable, high-productivity farmland treated primarily by increased applications of organic fertilizers in conjunction with chemical fertilizers. (The mu  is a traditional unit of land measure equal to 0.0667 hectares). The government’s great interest in organic fertilizers then led to the green-manure campaigns of the 1960s and the organic fertilizer movement of the 1970s, which encouraged among the people a widespread and positive concern for improving the quality of farmed land. At the same time, development in China’s chemical fertilizers industry fed a trend toward rapid and sustained increases in the volumes of chemical fertilizers being used. Since the beginning of the 1980s, three major adjustments have occurred with respect to fertilizer use. In the first half of that decade, to begin with, the single-minded objective to raise productivity led to widespread applications of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium fertilizers, and continual growth in fertilizer use efficiency. The second phase came in the latter half of the 1980s when emphasis in the agricultural sector turned to high productivity, high efficiency and high quality products. Models for the use of compound fertilizers were promoted, high-density single-ingredient fertilizers were developed and   3 the overall quantities of chemical fertilizers used increased very quickly. The third major adjustment has come about since the turn of the century as goals in agriculture have shifted once more, to emphasize now ecology and safety as well as enhanced quality, productivity and efficiency. Fertilizer use has thus entered a new phase in which eco-environmental protection and agricultural production are viewed with equal importance. Current Situation and Problems with Fertilizer Use in China Volumes of Chemical Fertilizer Use, and Product Structures Since the mid-20 th  century, chemical fertilizers have been viewed with increasing importance in China’s efforts to develop its agricultural sector. Over the past 20 years, applications of these fertilizers have increased by 1.57 million tonnes (of pure nutrient – this applies also to figures below) on average every year. While in 1984, the gross volume of fertilizer used was 14.82 million tonnes, this figure had grown to 47.66 million tonnes in 2005 and was the highest in the world. At a cost exceeding 200 billion Yuan, these chemical fertilizers represent 25% of total agricultural production costs (material expenses plus labour). Some 390 kilograms of chemical fertilizer are thus used per hectare of cultivated land, somewhat higher than the world average. There is a higher proportion of single-ingredient and low-grade fertilizers produced than of high-grade or complex fertilizers. Utilization of complex fertilizers reached 13.04 million tonnes in 2005, representing some 27% of all chemical fertilizers used. Meanwhile, most complex (or compound) fertilizers on the domestic market are general-use products. Fewer specialized complex (or compound) fertilizers are manufactured according to formulas that have been developed on the basis of soil testing or in-field performance experiments. In terms of fertilizer use, meanwhile, there is insufficient development and application of organic fertilizers and an unreasonable preponderance of chemical fertilizers. In 2004, the relative ratios of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium used were 1: 0.47: 0.10, which indicates a slight insufficiency of potassium use. Organic Fertilizer Resources and Utilization China has an abundance of organic fertilizer resources of a great variety of types. In addition to manures and urines, composts, crop straws, green manures and general farmyard manures, there are cake fertilizers, marine fertilizers, urban wastes with agricultural applications and biogas wastes. It can be deduced from available figures that China’s livestock and poultry manures amount to 2 billion tonnes, composts to 2 billion tonnes as well, crop straws to 700 million tonnes, cake manures to 20 million tonnes and green manures to 100 million tonnes. These organic resources contain great quantities of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium and trace elements, amounting to some 70 million tonnes of (pure) nutrients, or 1.46 times the amount of chemical fertilizers utilized nationwide. Clearly, the potential for their utilization is great. Practical evidence shows that a scientific and rational approach to using organic fertilizers provides an abundance of nutrients to food crops, improving both their external appearance and internal quality, thus bringing down production costs and enhancing the competitive profile of farm products on the market. In addition, these fertilizers are irreplaceable in terms of their salutary effects in soil improvement, building soil fertility, enhancing the overall productive capacity of the agricultural sector and maintaining farmland in a “constantly renewed” condition. At the present moment, the government of China is implementing a programme to increase the organic content of farmland soils, advocating in particular the return of crop straws to the soil, farmyard waste composting, the planting of green manures and industrializing the manufacture of organic fertilizers. These various measures aim to utilize to their best advantage the available organic resources as fertilizers.   4  Research, Development and Promotion of New Fertilizers Since the 1980s, China has conducted extensive research into foliar, microbiological and slow-release or controlled-release fertilizers, as well as the industrial treatment of organic wastes. Many favourable results have been obtained. With respect to foliar fertilizers, multi-nutrient types have been developed, including new types containing organic or amino acids that have proven to be very effective in leaf vegetable and fruit-tree applications. Initial work with microbiological fertilizers, meanwhile, has resulted in the foundation of a manufacturing industry that now services more than 100 million mu  of farmland, while also regularly producing new types of these fertilizers. Technical innovations have led to breakthroughs in coatings for slow-release and controlled-release fertilizers, and certain new technologies are already being applied to their production and use. With respect to the treatment and utilization of organic wastes, meanwhile, a variety of biotechnological techniques and products such as stalk and refuse rotting preparations are already in wide use. Significant advances have been achieved in the utilization of manure wastes from large and medium-sized poultry and livestock breeding operations, and the technologies and facilities for treatment of these wastes are at a mature stage of development.  Fundamental Research in Soil Fertilizers and their Applications China now has a corps of soil and fertilizer technologists of more than 17,000 individuals, and agricultural agencies at all levels operate soil chemistry laboratories. The past twenty years of reform and development have produced manpower with the technical understanding, operational know-how and management skills to achieve noteworthy results in research and development while also acquiring valuable experience in technical outreach programs. A series of national technical standards have been drawn up that put in place “National land-type zones and grading of cultivable land”, “National medium and low-yield farmland zones and technical improvement standards”, “Technical specifications for farmland soil-testing technology”, “Principles for the reasonable use of fertilizers”, “Technical specifications for fertilizer performance experimentation and evaluation” and “Assessment standards for investments in infrastructure development to improve medium and low-yield farmland,” among others. Other technical issues have been addressed in such documents as the “Technical specifications for fertilizer formulation”, the “Technical standards for soil analysis”, the “Technical specifications for the national soil quality survey,” and the “Handbook of national standards for water-saving agricultural technology and guidelines for investment estimates.” At the same time, such initiatives as the “County Farmland Resources Information System”, the “Information Compilation System for Soil Testing and Fertilizer Formulation” and a dictionary of standards have been realized and are now in use in farmland surveys and assessments across China. Recommendations for Promotion of the Scientific Use of Fertilizers The scientific use of fertilizers has been incorporated into the 11 th  5-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development and funding for soil testing and fertilizer formulation work has been brought within the ambit of the public financial organs. The Ministry of Agriculture will coordinate with pertinent agencies the various major strategies discussed below so as to ensure that a scientific approach to fertilizer use receives its due emphasis.  Promotion of Soil Testing and Fertilizer Formulation Technologies Soil testing and fertilizer formulation is generally referred to internationally as balanced fertilization. It is an advanced agricultural technology widely promoted by the United Nations. In general terms, it involves the five stages of soil testing, making a formula, developing a fertilizer to match the particular actual and desired conditions, then supplying and applying these fertilizers. China’s Ministry of
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