Thursday, May 9, 2013

Agriculture In China

Agriculture is a vital industry in China, employing over 300 million farmers. China ranks first in worldwide farm output, primarily producing rice, wheat, potatoes, sorghum, peanuts, tea, millet, barley, cotton, oilseed, pork, and fish.
Beginning in about 7500 BC with classical millet agriculture, China's development of farming over the course of its history has played a key role in supporting the growth of what is now the largest population in the world. Jared Diamond estimated that the earliest attested domestication of rice took place in China by 7500 BC Excavations at Kuahuqiao, the earliest known Neolithic site in eastern China, have documented rice cultivation 7,700 years ago. Finds at the ruins of the Hemudu Culture in Yuyao and Banpo Village near Xi'an, which all date back 6,000 to 7,000 years, include rice, millet and spade-like farm tools made of stone and bone. The first signs of settled agriculture however was around 5000 BC. There is also a long tradition involving agriculture, in Chinese mythology.
Farming method improvements

Ploughing with a buffalo, Hubei
Due to China's status as a developing country and its severe shortage of arable land, farming in China has always been very labor-intensive. However, throughout its history various methods have been developed or imported that enabled greater farming production and efficiency.They also utilized the seed drill to help improve on row farming.
During the Spring and Autumn Period (722–481 BC), two revolutionary improvements in farming technology took place. One was the use of cast iron tools and beasts of burden to pull plows, and the other was the large-scale harnessing of rivers and development of water conservation projects. The engineer Sunshu Ao of the 6th century BC and Ximen Bao of the 5th century BC are two of the oldest hydraulic engineers from China, and their works were focused upon improving irrigation systems. These developments were widely spread during the ensuing Warring States Period (403–221 BC), culminating in the enormous Du Jiang Yan Irrigation System engineered by Li Bing by 256 BC for the State of Qin in ancient Sichuan.
For agricultural purposes the Chinese had invented the hydraulic-powered trip hammer by the 1st century BC, during the ancient Han Dynasty (202 BC-220 AD). Although it found other purposes, its main function to pound, decorticate, and polish grain that otherwise would have been done manually. The Chinese also innovated the square-pallet chain pump by the 1st century AD, powered by a waterwheel or an oxen pulling on a system of mechanical wheels. Although the chain pump found use in public works of providing water for urban and palatial pipe systems, it was used largely to lift water from a lower to higher elevation in filling irrigation canals and channels for farmland.
During the Eastern Jin (317–420) and the Northern and Southern Dynasties (420–589), the Silk Road and other international trade further spread farming technology throughout China. Political stability and a growing labor force led to economic growth, and people opened up large areas of wasteland and built irrigation works for expanded agricultural use. As land-use became more intensive and efficient, rice was grown twice a year and cattle began to be used for plowing and fertilization.
By the Tang Dynasty (618–907), China had become a unified feudal agricultural society. Improvements in farming machinery during this era included the moldboard plough and watermill. Later during the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368), cotton planting and weaving technology were extensively adopted and improved.
While around 750, 75% of China's population lived north of the river Yangtse, by 1250, 75% of the population lived south of the river. Such large-scale internal migration was possible due to introduction of quick-ripening strains of rice from Vietnam suitable for multi-cropping.[8]
In 1909 US Professor of Agriculture Franklin Hiram King made an extensive tour of China (as well as Japan and briefly Korea) and he described contemporary agricultural practices. He favourably described the farming of China as 'permanent agriculture' and his book 'Farmers of Forty Centuries', published posthumously in 1911, has become an agricultural classic and has been a favoured reference source for organic farming advocates.


In its first fifty years, the People's Republic of China greatly increased agricultural production through organizational and technological improvements.
Crop 1949 Output (tons) 1978 Output (tons) 1999 Output (tons)
1. Grain 113,180,000 304,770,000 508,390,000
2. Cotton 444,000 2,167,000 3,831,000
3. Oil-bearing crops 2,564,000 5,218,000 26,012,000
4. Sugarcane 2,642,000 21,116,000 74,700,000
5. Sugarbeet 191,000 2,702,000 8,640,000
6. Flue-cured tobacco 43,000 1,052,000 2,185,000
7. Tea 41,000 268,000 676,000
8. Fruit 1,200,000 6,570,000 62,376,000
9. Meat 2,200,000 8,563,000 59,609,000
10. Aquatic products 450,000 4,660,000 41,220,000
However, since 2000 the depletion of China's main aquifers has led to an overall decrease in grain production, turning China into a net importer. The trend of Chinese dependence on imported food is expected to accelerate as the water shortage worsens. However desalination plants find few customers because it is still cheaper to over-utilize rivers, lakes and aquifers, even as these are depleted.
Today, China is both the world's largest producer and consumer of agricultural products. However, the researcher Lin Erda has stated a projected fall of possibly 14% to 23% by 2050 due to water shortages and other impacts by climate change; China has increased the budget for agriculture by 20% in 2009, and continues to support energy efficiency measures, renewable technology, and other efforts with investments, such as the over 30% green component of the $586bn fiscal stimulus package announced in November 2008.