HARBIN, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) -- On a farm in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, technicians in the laboratory are immersed in monitoring the soil's organic content and applying pesticides and fertilizers according to specific farming conditions, so as to better preserve the fertility of the local signature black soil.
The farm belongs to the Qixing branch of the Beidahuang Group, one of China's major grain producers. This year, the group's Qixing branch initiated a black soil protection campaign built on big data technology and scientific research, hoping to make new breakthroughs amid their normalized soil protection efforts.
Monday marks the ninth World Soil Day. Held annually on Dec. 5, the day is designated as a means to focus attention on the importance of healthy soil and to advocate for the sustainable management of soil resources.
According to the official website of the United Nations (UN), soil nutrient loss is a major soil degradation process threatening nutrition. It is recognized as being among the most critical problems at a global level concerning food security and sustainability all around the planet.
Over the last 70 years, the level of vitamins and nutrients in food has drastically decreased, and it is estimated that 2 billion people worldwide suffer from a lack of micronutrients -- known as hidden hunger because it is difficult to detect, according to data released by the UN.
Dubbed a "giant panda in cultivated land," black soil constitutes the food basket for many. The black soil, or chernozem soil, found in China's northeastern provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin, and Liaoning and in some parts of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, produces about a quarter of the country's total grain output, making it crucial to China's food supply.
During recent years, Heilongjiang, China's largest grain barn, has prioritized the protection of its black soil in a major move to safeguard China's food security -- doing so with the help of novel technologies.
"In the past few years, we have taken several technical measures to preserve our black soil, including formulated fertilization based on soil testing, heavy metal testing, and dry leveling without mud agitation," said Jin Lijun, deputy director of the agricultural technology promotion center laboratory under the Qixing branch of Beidahuang Group.
According to Jin, these effective measures have helped local farmers to adopt fertilizers and pesticides in a more scientific way, while greatly improving their field management and expanding the grain production capacity. "Currently, the soil nutrient content of our soil still maintains the same level as back in 2008," he added.
Explaining the method of formulated fertilization based on soil testing, Wang Xiaoqing, director of the soil and fertilizer testing center of Beidahuang Group's 8511 farm, said that the practice can provide tailored solutions so as to avoid fertilizer waste, save production costs and increase profits.
Soil testing is like a "general physical examination" for arable land, while formulated fertilization offers proper "prescription" for the sake of soil protection.
"It is expected to help increase the land's crop yield by 5 to 10 percent," Wang added.
A proficient pharmacist is to a right prescription what an intelligent fertilizer dispenser is to the soil's tailored preservation plan. The group's Baoquanling branch has introduced intelligent fertilizer dispensers, which can generate fertilizers accurately according to the inputted formula via digital programs.
"We just have to input the formula via computer and the machinery can calculate the results with hardly any error. The machines can mix the fertilizers more evenly and help save human labor, while the enclosed operation environment can ensure better safety," said Wang Peng, deputy director of Lingshangfeng Management Area of the group's Baoquanling branch.
In June, China's top legislature passed a law on black soil conservation, specifying the responsibilities of the government and "agricultural production operators" to protect the black soil. The law came into effect in August 2022.
According to the Ministry of Natural Resources, relevant departments and regions will conduct surveys of black soil and establish farmland files, further supporting the protection of black soil with joint efforts.