Gobi agriculture: an innovative farming system that increases energy and water use efficiencies. A review

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

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

8 Citations (Scopus)
148 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

In populated regions/countries with fast economic development, such as Africa, China, and India, arable land is rapidly shrinking due to urban construction and other industrial uses for the land. This creates unprecedented challenges to produce enough food to satisfy the increased food demands. Can the millions of desert-like, non-arable hectares be developed for food production? Can the abundantly available solar energy be used for crop production in controlled environments, such as solar-based greenhouses? Here, we review an innovative cultivation system, namely “Gobi agriculture.” We find that the innovative Gobi agriculture system has six unique characteristics: (i) it uses desert-like land resources with solar energy as the only energy source to produce fresh fruit and vegetables year-round, unlike conventional greenhouse production where the energy need is satisfied via burning fossil fuels or electrical consumption; (ii) clusters of individual cultivation units are made using locally available materials such as clay soil for the north walls of the facilities; (iii) land productivity (fresh produce per unit land per year) is 10–27 times higher and crop water use efficiency 20–35 times greater than traditional open-field, irrigated cultivation systems; (iv) crop nutrients are provided mainly via locally-made organic substrates, which reduce synthetic inorganic fertilizer use in crop production; (v) products have a lower environmental footprint than open-field cultivation due to solar energy as the only energy source and high crop yields per unit of input; and (vi) it creates rural employment, which improves the stability of rural communities. While this system has been described as a “Gobi-land miracle” for socioeconomic development, many challenges need to be addressed, such as water constraints, product safety, and ecological implications. We suggest that relevant policies are developed to ensure that the system boosts food production and enhances rural socioeconomics while protecting the fragile ecological environment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number62
Number of pages16
JournalAgronomy for Sustainable Development
Volume38
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018

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