NERC: Using Critical Zone Science – Peri-Urban Agriculture in China

Enhance Soil Fertility and Improve Ecosystem Services for Peri-Urban Agriculture in China

The China State Council in 2015 prioritised improved food production and safety through creative solutions to reform agricultural practices. Enhanced targets for the period 2009-2020 are to increase production to 550M tonnes per year by increasing 50M tonnes per year. These targets pose a major challenge to soil fertility.

China uses around 650 kg/ha of mineral fertiliser each year for arable crops with overall use per unit of yield 2.5 times greater than for Europe; growing at a rate of over 5% per year. Residual metals in some mineral fertilisers, and soil acidification due to nitrification and plant ammonium uptake that accompanies mineral fertiliser applications, increases metal mobility and bioavailability. The heavy use of mineral fertilisers and agrochemicals therefore risks serious soil and water pollution and food contamination arising from accumulating soil contaminants. In early 2015, China issued a commitment to halt the growth in use of mineral fertiliser and agrichemicals by 2020, predominantly through a far greater use of organic fertilisers by utilising waste streams, e.g. from animal manure, fish pond waste and sewage sludge.

Therefore, this project deals with the competing problem of agricultural intensification, resulting from population growth and food demand, whilst maintaining the water quality in surface and sub-surface ecosystem. To examine the impact of evolving agricultural practices on surface and sub-surface water quality especially the spatiotemporal characterisation of nutrients through aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem, this project is applying state-of-the-art numerical model. The field site is located in the Zhangxi catchment located in Ningbo city located within Yangtze delta.