Pursuing sustainable productivity with millions of smallholder farmers

Zhenling Cui, Hongyan Zhang, Xinping Chen, Chaochun Zhang, Wenqi Ma, Chengdong Huang, Weifeng Zhang, Guohua Mi, Yuxin Miao, Xiaolin Li, Qiang Gao, Jianchang Yang, Zhaohui Wang, Youliang Ye, Shiwei Guo, Jianwei Lu, Jianliang Huang, Shihua Lv, Yixiang Sun, Yuanying LiuXianlong Peng, Jun Ren, Shiqing Li, Xiping Deng, Xiaojun Shi, Qiang Zhangc, Zhiping Yang, Li Tang, Changzhou Wei, Liangliang Jia, Jiwang Zhang, Mingrong He, Yanan Tong, Qiyuan Tang, Xuhua Zhong, Zhaohui Liu, Ning Cao, Changlin Kou, Hao Ying, Yulong Yin, Xiaoqiang Jiao, Qingsong Zhang, Mingsheng Fan, Rongfeng Jiang, Fusuo Zhang, Zhengxia Dou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

282 Scopus citations

Abstract

Sustainably feeding a growing population is a grand challenge, and one that is particularly difficult in regions that are dominated by smallholder farming. Despite local successes, mobilizing vast smallholder communities with science- A nd evidence-based management practices to simultaneously address production and pollution problems has been infeasible. Here we report the outcome of concerted efforts in engaging millions of Chinese smallholder farmers to adopt enhanced management practices for greater yield and environmental performance. First, we conducted field trials across China's major agroecological zones to develop locally applicable recommendations using a comprehensive decision-support program. Engaging farmers to adopt those recommendations involved the collaboration of a core network of 1,152 researchers with numerous extension agents and agribusiness personnel. From 2005 to 2015, about 20.9 million farmers in 452 counties adopted enhanced management practices in fields with a total of 37.7 million cumulative hectares over the years. Average yields (maize, rice and wheat) increased by 10.8-11.5%, generating a net grain output of 33 million tonnes (Mt). At the same time, application of nitrogen decreased by 14.7-18.1%, saving 1.2 Mt of nitrogen fertilizers. The increased grain output and decreased nitrogen fertilizer use were equivalent to US$12.2 billion. Estimated reactive nitrogen losses averaged 4.5-4.7 kg nitrogen per Megagram (Mg) with the intervention compared to 6.0-6.4 kg nitrogen per Mg without. Greenhouse gas emissions were 328 kg, 812 kg and 434 kg CO"2 equivalent per Mg of maize, rice and wheat produced, respectively, compared to 422 kg, 941 kg and 549 kg CO"2 equivalent per Mg without the intervention. On the basis of a large-scale survey (8.6 million farmer participants) and scenario analyses, we further demonstrate the potential impacts of implementing the enhanced management practices on China's food security and sustainability outlook.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)363-366
Number of pages4
JournalNature
Volume555
Issue number7696
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 15 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was financially supported by the Chinese National Basic Research Program (2015CB150400), the Innovative Group Grant from the NSFC (31421092), the Special Fund for Agro-scientific Research in the Public Interest (201103003), and National Natural Science Foundation-Outstanding Youth Foundation (31522050).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature.

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Pursuing sustainable productivity with millions of smallholder farmers'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this