Facility Cultivation Systems "设施农业": A Chinese Model for the Planet

Jianming Xie, Jihua Yu, Baihong Chen, Zhi Feng, Jie Li, Cai Zhao, Jian Lyu, Linli Hu, Yantai Gan, Kadambot H. M. Siddique

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


One of the greatest challenges in highly populated countries such as China and India is how to secure food supplies for the ever-growing human population. Farmland for agriculture has been declining due to fast urbanization that competes for land availability between agriculture and other economic sectors. In many arid regions such as northwest China, there are vast areas of nonarable or barren land. An overwhelming question is: can those nonarable or barren lands be used for cultivating crops for human food? Through a series of experimentation over years, an innovative cultivation system has been developed recently in China where clustered solar-energy, plastic-roofed, engineered facilities are built on nonarable to produce fresh vegetables year round, season after season. This cultivation system is called "facility agriculture," "she-shi nongye" in Chinese pinyin or (sic) in Chinese characters. Using the facility cultivation system adopted in the northwest areas of China as an example, we provide readers with a general sense of the concept and definition of the "Made-in-China" cultivation system. We highlight recent developments in infrastructure and design, features and functionality, and vision and potential. We discuss some of the key scientific findings on the long-term viability and sustainability of this unique agricultural model. This industry is still in its infancy, so we cover some issues and problems facing the industry and suggest some key research areas for the near future. In 2014, the cropping area using the facility cultivation system reached 4.1 million ha, producing about 85% of all vegetables consumed in China and creating about 70 million jobs for rural communities. Thus, this industry has a vital role in ensuring food security while enhancing socioecological sustainability. The facility cultivation system is considered a revolution in Chinese agricultural history. We believe that this system has the potential to be adopted in other countries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-42
Number of pages42
JournalAdvances in Agronomy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jun 2017


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