Led by the University of Aberdeen, the MIDST-CZO project has received £1.1 million to find solutions to China’s pollution problem. It is hoped that data produced by the project will be able to inform and guide Chinese policy and farming.
Alongside a team of 12 UK partners and 15 Chinese Institutions, the project will build upon research from previous studies in a bid to develop new smart farming tools. Tools will range from simple smartphone apps that farmers can use in the field to specialist software that can be used to test the environmental impacts of farm practices over large swathes of land.
The project, which is a continuation of other UK-China projects, received £1.1 million of funding from the Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC) – with additional funding from the National Science Foundation of China.
Project leader, Professor Paul Hallett, from the University of Aberdeen’s School of Biological Science, said: “This project follows on from what was, arguably, the deepest ever study of agricultural impacts to soil and water in China. Most studies of soils have been limited to shallow depths, but these new findings have shed a lot of light on just how much applied fertilisers may be seeping out of soils to pollute water and air.
“Much more was studied in these projects than ever before, including pathogen movement, soil formation, erosion, and greenhouse gases. They also considered social factors driving farming practice and explored how farmers get information on better practices.
“By studying everything from the tops of trees to the bedrock beneath the soil, these projects contributed to a global network of Critical Zone Observatories. This has produced a wealth of knowledge that will allow our new follow-on project MIDST-CZO to seek a step-change in improved practices and policy in China to sustain soil and water resources.
“Farming is changing rapidly in China with a strong drive to reverse soil degradation, use less fertiliser and water, and clean up impacts to the environment. The new tools we are developing aim to give policy makers and farmers confidence that they can achieve win-wins of less costs, greater yields and more profit, coupled with a lower impact of farming to the environment.”
Earlier this year, Liu BingJiang, an environment ministry official announced that China will order detailed punishment for officials in regions that fail to meet their air quality targets.
The country is currently in the fifth year of its war on pollution to reverse the environmental damage caused by four decades of rapid economic growth.