From using mosquito nets to raising catfish in their paddy fields, the sky is the limit for Chinese farmers trying to grow healthier food.
In Heheng village, abound 250 kilometers from Shanghai, fields of golden crops sway in the autumn wind.
A giant white mosquito net stands in the paddy field. It is so large that it needs to be supported by many steel tubes, each three-meters apart.
The idea of using a net to control pests came from Shi Yang, a 35-year-old farmer in Taizhou city, Jiangsu Province.
“With this net, flying insects such as plant hoppers cannot spawn in the field, which dramatically reduces my use of pesticides,” Shi told Xinhua on World Food Day, which falls Monday.
The local people call Shi’s healthy rice “mosquito net rice.” He grows the rice over a one hectare area.
He uses ducks to eat grass and frogs to eat small insects before the harvest. Using organic fertilizers, the rice yield falls significantly, but thanks to its high quality each kilogram of rice can be sold for as high as 80 yuan (around 12 U.S. dollars).
“We earn nearly 10,000 yuan per mu, around 10 times the price of rice grown with fertilizers and pesticides,” Shi said. “People like organic food nowadays. We sell it online and the demand always exceeds supply.”
In 1990, Heheng was added to the Global 500 Roll of Honor by the United Nations Environment Programme, due to its success protecting the environment while increasing grain yield, and its wide use of marsh gas ponds.
How to ensure his paddy fields are environmentally friendly has been on Shi’s mind for three years.
In early 2015, he visited researchers and farmers across China to learn more farming knowledge. He found a farmer using a fly net on his vegetable plots to tackle pests. This inspired Shi to install mosquito nets in his paddy fields.
Last year, he tried growing mosquito net rice on just one-quarter of a hectare of land. This year he expanded coverage to a full hectare.
China has only 7 percent of the world’s arable land to feed more than 20 percent of the world’s population.
The overuse of fertilizers and pesticides in China has damaged environment and caused food safety concerns.
To promote low-carbon development in agriculture, China plans to achieve a zero increase in the use of fertilizers and pesticide use by 2020.
Shi’s innovative farming methods are not the exception in Heheng. Another young farmer, Sun Fei, 30, has developed fish farming in his paddy fields.
“I put catfish in the paddy fields. The fish live in the shallow water. They eat rice pests and their excrement nourishes the rice,” he said.
Sun uses 2 hectares of land for the rice-fish farming, bringing him 150,000 yuan last year.
In the rice-growing area, farmer also used the paddy fields to raise ducks, chickens, lobsters and crabs to create a biological chain of green farming, helping to curb soil degradation and raise fertility of the land.
“There is a big potential in the healthy and organic food market,” Shi said. “I hope to install mosquito nets in more paddy fields next year.” (Source: Xinhua)