Grain production versus resource and environmental costs: Towards increasing sustainability of nutrient use in China

X. Jiao, Y. Lyu, X. Wu, H. Li, L. Cheng, C. Zhang, L. Yuan, R. Jiang, B. Jiang, Zed Rengel, F. Zhang, W.J. Davies, J. Shen

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© 2016 The Author 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Experimental Biology.
Over the past five decades, Chinese grain production has increased 4-fold, from 110 Mt in 1961 to 557 Mt in 2014, with less than 9% of the world's arable land feeding 22% of the world's population, indicating a substantial contribution to global food security. However, compared with developed economies, such as the USA and the European Union, more than half of the increased crop production in China can be attributed to a rapid increase in the consumption of chemicals, particularly fertilizers. Excessive fertilization has caused low nutrient use efficiency and high environmental costs in grain production. We analysed the key requirements underpinning increased sustainability of crop production in China, as follows: (i) enhance nutrient use efficiency and reduce nutrient losses by fertilizing roots not soil to maximize root/rhizosphere efficiency with innovative root zone nutrient management; (ii) improve crop productivity and resource use efficiency by matching the best agronomic management practices with crop improvement; and (iii) promote technology transfer of the root zone nutrient management to achieve the target of high yields and high efficiency with low environmental risks on a broad scale. Coordinating grain production and environmental protection by increasing the sustainability of nutrient use will be a key step in achieving sustainable crop production in Chinese agriculture.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4935-4949
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Experimental Botany
Issue number17
Early online date3 Aug 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2016


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