Fertilizer wastage costs China 52 million tons of grain

May 27, 2011 By Albert Sikkema

If China could divide its available fertilizers better among its provinces, it could produce 52 million tons more grain. This would enable China to tackle its growing demand for food and animal feed within its own borders.

This is the result of a study conducted by Xiaobin Wang of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) and the Wageningen UR agrotechnologist Willem Hoogmoed, as reported in this month's Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.

In the wealthy eastern part of China, farmers spread more than 180 kilogrammes of nitrogen on each hectare of their land. Excessive amounts of nitrogen cannot be absorbed by the crops; instead, they pollute the and the air. In the poorer western part of China, nitrogen use is below 100 and even 50 kilogrammes per hectare per year. If the eastern provinces were to limit their fertilizer use to 180 kilogrammes per year, the remainder - 1.2 million tons of nitrogen - could go to the poorer agriculture areas. That would result in additional of 52 million tons, Wang calculates.

That would make quite a difference in the global grain market. For comparison, China currently produces about 500 million tons of grain annually, and the European Union produces about 130 million tons. The inefficient use of nitrogen is one of the major limiting factors in in China, writes Wang.

The Chinese Academy of  is adviser to the agriculture ministry in Beijing. Its conclusions have already been shared among policy makers, says Hoogmoed. But the re-distribution of fertilizers has not yet been put into practice. The distance between China's capital city and its countryside is big, and every province has its own policy and fertiliser factories.

Explore further: The 5 Ws of corn production

Related Stories

The 5 Ws of corn production

August 31, 2007

As of late, many uncertainties have been sprouting up in corn production. Researchers and producers have been wondering if precision agricultural technologies can improve crop yield and quality or reduce their variability. ...

Study highlights massive imbalances in global fertilizer use

June 18, 2009

Synthetic fertilizers have dramatically increased food production worldwide. But the unintended costs to the environment and human health have been substantial. Nitrogen runoff from farms has contaminated surface and groundwater ...

China tries to calm unease over rare earths curbs

September 3, 2009

(AP) -- A Chinese official tried to calm unease about curbs on exports of rare earths used in clean energy products and superconductors, saying Thursday that sales will continue but must be limited to reduce damage to China's ...

Recommended for you

A cataclysmic event of a certain age

July 27, 2015

At the end of the Pleistocene period, approximately 12,800 years ago—give or take a few centuries—a cosmic impact triggered an abrupt cooling episode that earth scientists refer to as the Younger Dryas.

'Carbon sink' detected underneath world's deserts

July 28, 2015

The world's deserts may be storing some of the climate-changing carbon dioxide emitted by human activities, a new study suggests. Massive aquifers underneath deserts could hold more carbon than all the plants on land, according ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.