China's grain at risk from climate change

April 3, 2012 at 1:55 PM
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BEIJING, April 3 (UPI) -- China's agricultural security is at risk from climate change and the selling of arable lands.

"Food security remains the weakest link in China's national economic security," Han Jun, deputy director of the State Council's Development Research Center told China Daily.

Seeds, water and land, he says, will be essential to China's further development in agriculture.

Last year, for example, droughts destroyed grain that would have been enough for nearly 60 million Chinese to eat for a year, ClimateWire reports.

In the Haihe River Basin region in northern China, warm weather is conducive to planting crops twice a year but farmers there can only plant once a year because of insufficient water supplies, says Mo Xingguo a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

"The region's water resources simply can't afford more crop plantings," Mo told ClimateWire.

And farmers who benefited from increased yields with genetically manipulated crops aren't experiencing the same results as they had before.

"In the 1970s, when we used genetic engineering technology to breed regionally adopted crops, we could enjoy its high yield for years; now that period is much shorter," Pan Genxing, director of Agriculture and Climate Change Center at Nanjing Agriculture University.

Pan points to a changing environment because of climate change as the reason why the crops are no longer a good "fit" for the soil in which they were designed to grow.

"We have researches on the impact of increasing heat, declining rainfalls as well as other factors of climate change but we still don't know how those factors altogether affect crops' production," said Pan.

"Agriculture is an ecosystem. We can't just add or deduct research results of each factor, and say that's what climate change has caused."

While China has succeeded in harvesting more grain every year consecutively since 2003, the depletion of the country's natural resources threatens future harvests.

For 2012, China faces "great pressure" to secure another increase in grain yields, Chen Xiaohua, vice minister of agriculture told China Daily.

Chen Xiwen, a top Chinese agricultural policymaker this month called for China to increase its grain output by protecting arable land and also to rely less on imports.

Noting that China imports more than 75 percent of the soybeans it needs from the United States, Brazil, and Argentina, he warned that grain security could be affected if the imported amount keeps increasing.

"If something that affects transportation happens to these countries, there will be grave problems," he said.

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