The soil in Yunnan - some observations

It is readily apparent that the farming methods, particularly in regards to vegetable production which we saw the most of, while operating on the scale of multiple family farms, are intensive and industrial in nature. At one level these are clearly highly productive and the crops appear to be growing well with minimal weeds and very uniform results.

However, on closer inspection it is clear that:

  • The soil is in a very poor state

  • There are major issues with agricultural run-off

  • They make extensive use of ploughing to support their efforts to minimise weeds

  • Across great swathes of land there is practically no other vegetation or wildlife – trees, hedgerows, birds, seem almost entirely absent.

While the climate is very good, there is considerable use of polytunnels in the larger farming enterprises which seems to be largely driven by the desire to protect crops from the damage that can be caused by rain. This brings with it the challenges of managing the internal environment.

Rose plants growing under polytunnels.

Very productive fields. The farmers are focused on maximising yields year on year and have achieved this but at the expense of longer term sustainability and soil health.

Agricultural waste is collected and held in these bunkers to create compost.

Plough blades left in the polytunnel show their approach.

Soil showing minimal evidence of organic matter, water retention, a good ecosystem for growing.

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 Nick Rousseau -  International Collaboration Consultant: Assisting strategic innovation projects.