How One Large Chinese Crop Experiment Yielded $12.2 Billion in Profits

China’s population is booming, and growers there are looking into the best ways to continue to provide enough food in the future. As a result, a decade-long experiment on ways to make agriculture more sustainable using evidence-based management techniques proved rather valuable. The experimental crop generated $12.2 billion in profits.

Scientists and Growers Working Together

Scientists throughout China set about studying and analyzing huge amounts of agricultural data collected throughout the country and the world. They used this to develop experimental crop management practices, and then they passed this information down to growers who would put them into practice. Nearly 21 million different farmers decided to follow along with the recommendations, and the results were spectacular. The farmers who chose to participate in the experiment earned $12.2 billion in US dollars collectively.

Catching the Attention of the Global Agriculture Industry

While the growers in China are certainly impressed, they aren’t the only ones. In fact, scientists across the globe are speechless. They have known for some time that the world will need to double its food production capabilities between the years of 2005 and 2050, and they have worked tirelessly to come up with new ways to make that happen. Technology is playing a vital role, and so is the ability to collect and analyze vast amounts of data. However, the scale of what the Chinese growers have accomplished is unlike anything ever seen before, and agronomy specialists worldwide want to see more countries implement the same practices.

China’s Biggest Issues

Prior to the study, scientists and environmentalists knew that while China was succeeding in feeding most of its population of nearly 1.5 billion people, it was slowly killing the environment in the process. The fertilizers used to help boost yields have devastated parts of the country by polluting waterways, creating acid rain, and even contributing heavily to measurable global warming. The decades-long study focused on reducing fertilizer use without forfeiting yield, and it provide that with better management, all things are possible.

The Recommendations that Led to Results

After more than 13,000 field studies and trials, scientists came up with a set of recommendations that nearly 21 million farmers put into place. The goal was to have rice farmers reduce their use of nitrogen by 20%, plant their seeds closer together, and increase the amount of nitrogen they applied late in the growing season. Crop production increased by roughly 15% per crop and Chinese farmers saved 1.2 million tons of nitrogen from entering the environment in the process. It proves that sometimes less is more, and this is information that farmers all over the world can use to their advantage to boost yields, reduce their environmental impacts, and even save some money at the same time.

Ideally, it is hoped that farmers in other parts of the world will gather, analyze, and use data to their advantage in this way, but not all countries have the same advantages as China and even the US. However, in countries with massive populations, any amount of yield increase and reduced environmental impact is important.