China launches national soil survey to protect arable land

After rapid development and intensive farming, China is to carry out a new national soil survey to help with its food security and carbon targets.

China Dialogue a few days ago published an article by three Chinese scientists. The authors are soil science experts – Chen Nengchang and He Xiaoxia are with the Guangdong Institute of Eco-environmental and Soil Sciences of the Guangdong Academy of Sciences, while Lin Dasong is with the Agro-Environmental Protection Institute of China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

Many soil scientists have been calling for a new survey, particularly those who are representatives to China’s top legislature, the National People’s Congress (NPC), or its top political advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPCCC).

China’s State Council in February 2022 announced that a survey of China’s soil would be carried out. It will take almost four years to complete, with preparatory works and trials already underway and its conclusion scheduled for the second half of 2025. The survey is seen as an important initiative and will be headed by the vice premier of the State Council, Hu Chunhua, with deputy-heads from the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

Photo: Zhang Yongxin/Xinhua

The authors write that:

“The last four decades have seen rapid, resource-intensive economic growth in China. Chinese people enjoy a better quality of life now, but the soil has paid a heavy price. A new survey is essential for understanding and protecting soils, and it will help ensure food security and progress towards China’s peak carbon and carbon neutrality targets.”

“Those [scientists] who work on soil issues have long hoped for a new study, with well-known soil scientists calling for one as early as 2005, at the government’s annual Two Sessions meetings.”

The authors outline the history of four major soil surveys and smaller scale or localised studies and monitoring. Viewed together, the authors say that data indicates there have been at least three changes in China’s soil over the past four decades: worsening heavy metal pollution, rapid acidification, and changes in organic content.

“The new soil survey will examine China’s arable land, orchards and plantations, forests and grasslands, as well as some currently unutilised land”, according to the scientists. “In forests and grassland, the focus will be on areas used for food production. The study of unutilised land will concentrate on areas that could be made useful, such as saline-alkaline soils. On arable land, orchards and plantations, 45 tests will be carried out on each sample. There will also be surveys of animals and microorganisms living in the soil at those points.”

Commenting on the significance of the new soil survey, the scientists pointed out that China’s 14th Five Year Plan and China’s Vision 2035 is to achieve socialist modernisation. This the authors say will “both require China’s food security to be guaranteed, with the strictest possible measures to protect arable land, and a two-pronged strategy ensuring that both the required land and technology are available.”

The authors conclude that the data from new soil survey will contribute to achieving two major aims. “First, to promote the health of the soil and help ensure an adequate and safe supply of food. Second, healthier soil will also sequester more carbon, helping China work towards its 2030 peak carbon and 2060 carbon neutrality targets.”

The full text of the article is available at the link provided below.

Black soil in North East China is some of the most fertile in the world, but the has been damaged by over-cultivation says Chinese Academy of Sciences. Photo: IC photo

Source: China Dialogue, August 2, 2022. https://chinadialogue.net/en/pollution/china-launches-first-national-soil-survey-in-40-years/

Authors:

  • Chen Nengchang is a professor in the Guangdong Institute of Eco-environmental and Soil Sciences of the Guangdong Academy of Sciences. His research areas include the behavior of heavy metals in the rhizosphere interface; the loss of nitrogenous substances from plant leaves; the control and remediation of heavy metals in polluted soils; pollutants in the soil-food-human health chain; and soil science communication.
  • He Xiaoxia is a senior engineer in the Guangdong Institute of Eco-environmental and Soil Sciences of the Guangdong Academy of Sciences, and a member of the Committee on Scientific Communication of the Soil Science Society of China.
  • Lin Dasong is a researcher at the Agro-Environmental Protection Institute of China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs. His research relates to remediation technology and evaluation of remediation for heavy metal contamination of agricultural soil. 

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