Alternative strategies find fertile ground

Training on Orchard Green Manure
Farmers in Gansu discover the benefits of orchard “green manure”


Following a collaboration between our Foundation and The Nature Conservancy’s China office to study the effectiveness of agricultural subsidies and incentives on soil health and “green” agricultural development in China, stakeholders find opportunities to put ideas into practice. 

The province of Gansu enjoys a sunny climate with temperatures varying significantly between day and night – ideal conditions for growing apples. Consequently, Gansu is one of the largest producers in China of this versatile fruit, with many farmers in the region either involved in fruit-growing or associated industries.

Over the past ten years, government subsidies and other incentives have been available to farmers in China to encourage better soil health and “green” agricultural strategies. Because of Gansu Province’s strong association with apple production, it was identified as a region which could benefit from a focus on promotion of the use of organic fertilizers. Encouragement to reduce dependency on chemical options is motivated by a desire to improve farmers’ economic returns while protecting the reputation of geographical indication brands. 

Now, having evaluated the effectiveness of these measures, the Foundation and the Nature Conservancy’s China office have together come up with several recommendations to improve farmers’ use of organic fertilizers in agriculture. These include regularization of production standards, strengthening market supervision, supporting agricultural science and technology, and promoting large-scale and cooperative farming.  

As a response to requests for more training in the use of organic fertilizers, the orchard “green manure” program was set up in 2022. In a partnership with the Institute of Soil Fertilizer and Water-Saving Agriculture of the Gansu Academy of Agricultural Sciences (SFWSAI), local stakeholders learn about the benefits of intercropping and green manure in apple orchards, along with sessions on how to improve soil fertility, reduce dependency on fertilizers, increase production efficiency, and enhance orchard biodiversity. 

Online training on “using green manure in orchard production” was launched in early November of that year. This program brought together over 170 farmers and technicians of rural cooperatives from Huining County and Jingning County to interact and troubleshoot with experts on topics such as the ecological benefits of green manure in orchards, simplified pest control, and increasing efficiency in arid areas. 

In June of 2023, the Foundation collaborated with the SFWSAI to organize field days promoting green manure in the Jingning county towns of Chengchuan and Weishu, and in Hepan (in the county of Huining). A wide range of talks were given by experts including Che Zongxian, Researcher at the Gansu Institute, Qi Xianghui, Senior Agronomist at Huinong County Agricultural Techniques Extension Center, Wen Youfu, Senior Agronomist at the office of Jingning County Forestry, Pasture and Fruit, and Li Ying, Agricultural Director at The Nature Conservancy. 

Through a combination of field days, face-to-face, and online events, over 550 farmers and technicians in Huining and Jingning counties now have a better understanding of how put into action an effective green manure strategy – and this could have implications for helping devise and better implement the next round of subsidies related to organic fertilizers.