Farmers in China’s arid western regions have long regarded plastic film as a boon for business, but the environmental problems resulting from its use are prompting scientists to look for alternatives, as Gao Bo reports from Urumqi. For the past three decades, farmers in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region have been masters at using polyethylene film to boost crop yields and reduce the incidence of disease, but now the material is coming under increasing fire from environmentalists and agro-economists who say it causes more problems than it solves. In many parts of the world the material is used as a cheap alternative to glass greenhouses, but in Xinjiang, the farmers use a “plastic mulch” technique in the cultivation of more than 20 crops, including cotton, corn, and tomatoes…Full Article: China Daily Mar 2015

Key Points

  • According to the Director of the Institute for Soil, Fertilizer and Agricultural Watersaving at the Xinjiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Xinjiang uses polyethylene (PE) film on 3.13 million ha of land (~75% of Xinjiang’s arable land).
  • In December 2014, Xinjiang introduced new regulations (to encourage recycling) that require the minimum thickness of PE film for agriculture be 0.01 mm (previously 0.0008 mm was used).
  • The Xinjiang government has a farm subsidy program that allocates CNY 15,000 (US$2,400 or 1/6 of the price) for the purchase piece of machinery that is half-thresher half-plastic retrieval system.
  • Manas country, northern Xinjiang, uses PE plastic to grow cotton, corn, tomatoes and peppers 85% of its 66,000 ha of arable land.

ChinaAg Comment

  • As of 2013, Xinjiang was China’s largest producer of beetroots and cotton. The region was also China’s sixth largest producer of wheat and fruit (e.g. grapes, pears, apples), and its eleventh largest corn producer. The region is also a major tomato producer.

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