Fengxian County–A Model for China's New Countryside

By staff reporters LI WUZHOU & LUO YAO

EVERY time we travel to the countryside for an interview, we gain a new understanding of China that transcends that of large metropolises like Beijing and Shanghai. Fengxian County of Jiangsu Province offered us just that; its steps towards rural transformation and development show what can be done to help the countryside reclaim its dynamism.

Eco-agricultural Transformation

Located at a junction where the four provinces Jiangsu, Shandong, Henan and Anhui meet, Fengxian County covers an area of 1,500 square kilometers. Levee construction along the Yellow River over thousands of years meant that the once fertile land of Fengxian County was ruined by silt deposits, rendering it suitable for cultivating dry crops such as sorghum and maize only.

After the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the locals set about to redevelop the sandy wasteland and plant fruit trees on a large scale. At present, the county has an arable land area of 76,000 hectares. Fruit trees cover more than 33,000 hectares of this, yielding about 500,000 tons of fruit annually and making it one of China’s top 10 counties in fruit production. More importantly, the county’s forestcover has reached 34 percent, which has improved the local environment and climate.

The locals made the best out of the environmental conditions and adapted their farming methods accordingly. Sandy soils have good air permeability, which is ideal for growing root vegetables. The county accordingly adjusted its plantation structure and introduced suitable foreign varieties, such as asparagus and burdock, thus developing a modern, highly efficient agriculture system. Nowadays, the county has a vegetable multiple-cropping area of over 53,000 hectares, making it China’s second best county in vegetable cultivation. The cultivated areas of garlic shoots and onions rank first nationwide; meanwhile, the county is a national special vegetable production base for asparagus, burdock, Chinese yam, white garlic and yellow onion.

In line with modern requirements, Fengxian County has adopted an ecological agriculture structure in recent years. By enforcing standard operating procedures for pollution-free production, the county strictly controls the use of highly toxic or highly persistent pesticides during the production process. As yet, the county owns 20,000 hectares of provincially-certified production bases for pollution-free agricultural products, green food and organic food, producing more than 50 accredited organic and pollution-free agricultural products.

In an orchard in Taolou Village of Huashan Town, apples are wrapped in plastic bags while still on the tree. “These fruits are packed like this from an early stage in their growth so that no pesticide can be sprayed on the peel – so you can eat them straight away,” said Dong Liangfen, a female orchard worker who then plucked an apple from its plastic wrapping and ate it without washing it first. According to her, the orchard seldom uses pesticides, but rather biological control techniques and organic fertilizers. All these measures have paid off well: The price of these apples is higher and the orchard’s income is more than RMB 150,000 per hectare.

Inside a sizable vegetable greenhouse in Xinghua Village of Huashan Town, flypaper and light traps hang everywhere to catch pests. According to Zhou Sixian, a technician from Shouguang, China’s “Vegetable Town,” responsible for 30 greenhouses in Xinghua Village by special invitation, vegetables here are sprayed with only a small quantity of ecological pesticide with negligible residue. “Although this type of pesticide is not cheap, compared to conventional pesticides, it demands less usage volume and can save labor costs, so the total costs between them are the same,” Zhou said. “Since the vegetables are directly supplied to chain stores, they sell pretty well,” he added.

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