Sustaining China’s agriculture in a changing climate: a multidisciplinary action through UK–China cooperation: Yuelai Lu, David Powlson, David Norse, David Chadwick, Declan Conway, Brian Ford-Lloyd, Nigel Maxted, Pete Smith, Tim Wheeler
In many respects the development of agriculture in China over the last 50 years is an outstanding success story. In China 22% of the world’s current population are fed from only 7% of the world’s agricultural land. From 1995 to 2005, the total number of undernourished people in the world increased by 48 million, while in China, it decreased by 16 million (FAO 2009). Per capita availability of grain in China increased from 326 kg in 1980 to 399 kg in 2008, meat from 9 kg to 42 kg, while total population increased from 987 million to 1.33 billion in the same period (NBSC 2009). This achievement contributed significantly to global food security and poverty alleviation (IFAD 2011), however, the environmental costs of China’s food security success have been high. Agriculture in China in 2007 contributed from 19% to 22% of the nation’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emission, which is now the largest in the world (see Norse et al., this volume). Agriculture in China has also surpassed industry as the largest polluter of water, discharging 44%, 57% and 67% (13.2, 2.7 and 0.3 Mt), respectively, of the nation’s total chemical oxygen demand (COD), nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) into water (Xinhua 2010). Overuse of N fertilizer has caused acidification of soils used for intensive Chinese agricultural production (Guo et al. 2010), thus threatening China’s longterm food security and environmental safety. As “sustainable intensification” of agricultural systems worldwide is essential if the world’s population
is to be fed (Royal Society 2009), there is an urgent need for changes in China’s agricultural policies and practices to halt the environmental damage resulting from China’s current version of intensification. Food self-sufficiency (at the 95% level) is a central goal of agricultural policy in China. Chinese agriculture needs to feed more than 1.3 billion people now and 1.5 billion by 2030 (Feng 2007). Chinese agriculture also faces other resource constraints, including:
• maintaining food self-sufficiency on a shrinking arable land base due to urbanization and road building
• impacts of climate change • agriculture pollution, including non-point source pollution • water scarcity and poor water quality • biodiversity loss.