Zhangye, northwest China’s Gansu province, where the arable land accounts for less than 10 percent of the city’s total land area, has increased the income of 110,000 people by developing Gobi desert agriculture since 2017.
Thanks to water-saving irrigation facilities and the application of technologies in recent years, the city’s accumulative planting area of Gobi desert agriculture has reached 117,600 mu (7,840 hectares), creating an output value of 2.5 billion yuan ($382 million).
Since March 2019, An Hai, a resident in Wangjiadun village, Nijiaying township, Linze county, Zhangye, has built in the Gobi desert 11 steel-frame greenhouses, with each of which covering an area the total size of nine standard basketball courts.
In August this year, he grew in two of the 11 greenhouses wax gourds. The wax gourds are now being sold in batches.
“A greenhouse sees an output of about 60,000 kg of wax gourds and brings an income of at least 150,000 yuan,” said An, who is excited about the yields.
Each greenhouse is equipped with a pool for both watering and fertilizing. Water and fertilizer are mixed in proportion in the pool and then delivered to the roots of wax gourds through drip irrigation pipes.
The ratio of water to fertilizer is decided by agricultural experts, and the irrigation frequency and duration, as well as the temperature and humidity in the greenhouses, are all automatically controlled by a system, according to An.
The lack of water has posed a serious challenge for developing agriculture in the Gobi desert.
To tackle the problem, Zhangye has leveled the land, improved ditches and introduced water-saving irrigation facilities to build high-standard farmland, said Zhang Wenbin, an official in charge of promoting technologies for commercial crops in Zhangye.
The high-standard farmland could save at least one third of the water, which will then be used to supply more farming business in the Gobi desert.
In an eco-industrial park in Minle county, Zhangye, modern smart greenhouses of Haisheng Modern Agriculture Co., Ltd. are known for their highly automated operation.
Covering an area of 200,000 square meters, the greenhouses have been built with advanced materials and under high standards, and have adopted advanced technologies, said An Kangping, production technology manager at the company.
The temperature, humidity and concentration of carbon dioxide in the greenhouses are automatically controlled by computers, he noted.
The quantity, size, color and taste of each bunch of tomatoes in the greenhouses are about the same, thanks to a precision water and fertilizer circulation system and the sensors installed in the greenhouses that ensure a consistent environment for the plants’ growth.
The government of Zhangye has rolled out a series of measures and policies to encourage companies to invest in agriculture in the Gobi desert.
Since 2017, Zhangye has won a total of 215 million yuan of central and provincial funds, which have been used to support companies in such aspects as allocation of land, construction of infrastructure facilities, breeding of seedling and microorganism, introduction of water-saving irrigation facilities, R&D, sale as well as brand building in the forms of subsidies and rewards.
“Thanks to the help of township officials, I got the property certificate for over 50 mu of land pretty soon and was then able to mortgage the land for 2 million yuan,” An Hai said.
Agronomists at an agricultural and rural service center of Nijiaying township also give him advice on growing seedlings, field management, plant disease and pest control, according to An Hai.
“The agronomists visit me at least twice every week and have taught me to control the density of wax guards and improve the yields,” he said.