“Soil-doctor” lawmaker guards against farmland degradation in China
Dang Yongfu’s decade-long efforts in treating soil degradation caused by fertilizer and herbicide overuse have helped save 30 billion yuan (about 4.2 billion U.S. dollars) in economic losses for farmers in Henan, Heilongjiang, Jilin, Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang.
(Xinhua) — Days before going to Beijing for the annual session of the National People’s Congress (NPC), Dang Yongfu, an NPC deputy, was busy doing field research in the farmland of central China’s Henan Province.
Dang prepared a dozen bills and proposals – mostly concerning soil degradation — for discussions with his fellow lawmakers at the ongoing national legislative session. In one bill, he proposed that the NPC should launch an inspection to check how the Soil Pollution Prevention and Control Law had been implemented.
“The law enforcement should make farmers more aware of the importance of soil quality and help draw more investment to soil pollution control,” said Dang.
The 54-year-old native of Henan, an agricultural province, is among the NPC deputies formulating the law that took effect in January 2019.
As chief technician with Henan Yuandong Bio-engineering Co., Ltd., Dang was elected an NPC deputy in 2018. His decade-long efforts in treating soil degradation caused by fertilizer and herbicide overuse have helped save 30 billion yuan (about 4.2 billion U.S. dollars) in economic losses for farmers in Henan, Heilongjiang, Jilin, Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang.
China’s agricultural production feeds a population of 1.4 billion, but it has long faced the problem of fertilizer overuse.
“China sees no less than 40 million tonnes of chemical fertilizers absorbed into the soil every year, which also pollute water bodies after permeation,” Dang said.
He said China cannot secure its food supply without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. However, farmers overuse the chemicals for fear of a drop in production, which on the contrary led to decline in the fertility and productive capacity of soil.
Aerial photo taken on May 15, 2020 shows a view of a wheat field at Xiangyun Township in Wenxian County of Jiaozuo City, central China’s Henan Province. (Xinhua/Feng Dapeng)
Dang developed carbon adsorption polyglutamic acid fertilizer reduction technology in 2008.
Applying the technology for two consecutive years, farmers in Shufu County in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region achieved an 8.2 percent increase of wheat production while using 20 percent less fertilizer, according to Ren Limin, a village official of the county.
After years of efforts, more and more farmers have been convinced to reduce their fertilizer consumption for soil protection.
In May, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs adopted Dang’s suggestion and issued a chemical fertilizer reduction standard to speed up the quantitative assessment of chemical fertilizers permeated in the soil.
“With living standards constantly improving, Chinese people should shift the focus from securing enough food to getting healthier food,” Dang said. “If I want to eat well, I must first treat the farmland well.”
Since late January, Dang has been busy in the fields, helping local farmers mitigate the adverse impact of a new problem: the novel coronavirus epidemic.
In early March, fertilization in wheat fields was delayed because farmers had to stay at home for epidemic prevention. Dang donated a batch of polymer organic water-soluble fertilizers, an environmentally friendly fertilizer that can be sprayed with unmanned aerial vehicles, for over 13,000 hectares of wheat in four counties in Henan.
He said human factors such as long-term excessive use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and agricultural films are to blame for the degradation of farmland soil, although some may attribute it to weather conditions such as droughts.
“The purpose of my proposals and suggestions to the NPC session is to highlight accurate and legal pollution control to promote the continuous improvement of environmental quality,” Dang said.
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