Trial of “grain crops to feed crops” fattens economy in northwest China’s Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture

Press Release

LINXIA, China, Dec. 14, 2018 /Xinhua-AsiaNet/– Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture in northwest China’s Gansu Province is a typical dry farming area. With nearly 80 percent of the population residing in rural areas and two-thirds of the cultivated land in arid and semi-arid areas, the region’s poverty reduction efforts hinge upon the development of dry farming.

Promotion of latest farming technologies has enabled soaring growth of corn output in the region in recent years. The corn planting area reaches 1.37 million mu (91,333 hectares), accounting for 69.2 percent of the grain sown area. Corn yield exceeds 500,000 tons, making up 62.4 percent of the total grain output. However, the expansive planting of corn has weighed on planting efficiency, denting farmers’ income and resulting in a large accumulation of corn stalks, which wastes resources and affects the rural environment. On the other hand, Linxia has a robust animal husbandry industry which is in high demand of abundant quality forage. The inefficient use of corn stalks and the inadequacy of high-quality forage poses an increasingly prominent challenge for the region.

To address this challenge, Linxia began in 2017 to replace grain crops with feed crops by promoting new technologies such as full storage and silage to adjust the planting structure and boost farmers’ income. Nowadays, Linxia has about 299,000 mu of corns planted for forage purposes, with an estimated capacity of producing 2.48 million tons of premium feed.

Walking into the Zhaojia Township of Dongxiang Autonomous County in Linxia, one will be intrigued by the white and blue “big balls” sitting on the roadside fields and open space in the village. Villager Ma Chengming processed all his 6 mu of corn into silage. “These are freshly packaged forage. Our cattle and sheep can enjoy these ‘delicacies’ about one month later,” he said.

Silage is a fermented fodder made from smashed corn cobs and stalks, which can be stored for one to three years. The “grain crops to feed crops” trial is to promote the cultivation of silage corn and turn the harvest of grain into fodder. “The nutrient rate of hay is less than five percent, and nutrition rate of another method is about 30 percent, while the whole-plant silage’s nutrition rate can reach 70 percent,” Professor He Chungui, deputy dean of Gansu Academy of Agricultural Sciences, illustrated the value re-creation of this method.

Ma felt confused over this trial as it was launched in 2017: Wouldn’t the fodder be moldy as the fresh stalks and corn were directly crushed and packaged? He decided to give it a try by turning only two mu of his grain crops into feed crops under the guidance of the local government and agricultural cooperatives. Unexpectedly, the silage didn’t turn out mildewed, while its cultivating cost reduced by a remarkable margin. This offered him prospects for prosperity.

Ma said that one mu of corn can be packaged into 4 tons of silage. He replaced all the remaining four mu of grain crops with feed crops this year, enough to feed 10 cattle and 100 sheep. It saved him a huge amount of money for forage as he no longer has to buy it.

The reduction of cost is not the only benefit of this trial. The fermented fodder also fatten the cattle and sheep, improving their meat quality. Ma pointed out that silage is a kind of high-quality forage, as it will produce a kind of lactic acid after fermentation. Besides its tasty flavor, silage helps reduce the incidence of intestinal diseases for cattle and sheep, another guarantee of the desirable quality of livestock products.

Ma Weizhong, another villager in the region, raises more than 20 sheep and five cattle. He used to only feed them with hay in winter due to the high price of forage. Unsurprisingly, his livestock grew at a snail’s pace.

This year, Ma Weizhong echoed the government’s call for the trial, and replaced all his five mu of grain crops with feed crops. Green silage bags line up in a row and are neatly stacked in the field. “The corn silage is priced at 0.35 yuan per kilogram, and one mu of land can generate 1,300 yuan in income, far more than selling corn, which might only bring in less than 1,000 yuan,” said Ma, who has decided to keep the forage for his livestock instead of selling them.

“The cattle grow about one month faster on this forage. In this way, one mu of land can generate over 2,000 yuan,” Ma Weizhong said of his plan.

After nearly two years of promotion, the trial of “grain crops to feed crops” has gradually gained recognition and support from local people. Thanks to the abundance of silage, livestock husbandry, the pillar industry of Linxia, has grown significantly in terms of quantity, becoming a major engine for increasing farmers’ income. Official data shows that there are 450,000 cattle and 3 million sheep in the stock in Linxia.

Source: The People’s Government of Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture