of China Australia Food Security Cooperation Initiative (CAFSCI)

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Forage development of the red soils south central China

Overview of Project

Although China has made remarkable gains in crop production in the past 20 years, this has been mainly in fertile river delta areas. The extensive hilly and mountainous red-soil areas of southern China have been relatively neglected, and remain a poorly utilised resource occupying a favourable temperature and rainfall environment.

A feasibility study to determine the potential of the red-soil hilly areas was carried out in 1986 by Winrock International, ACIAR and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science (CAAS). The consortium recommended the establishment of a research and development project aimed at overcoming soil erosion and plant nutrition problems in the denuded forest and grassland areas so that pastures, forages and trees could be established to provide feed for livestock and to conserve soil. Lingling Prefecture in Hunan province was selected as the target area for research because of the extent of its soil erosion and its proximity to livestock markets and the CAAS Red Soil Research Station.

In 1987-89, with AIDAB assistance, scientists from the University of New England (UNE) undertook preliminary work at Lingling with their counterparts at CAAS to develop an understanding of the problems and how to combat them. In the present project – which has been extended in scope to involve Fujian province – scientists from UNE and CAAS are building on the preliminary work in collaboration with colleagues from the Fujian Academy of Agricultural Science (FAAS). The group at UNE has a sustained track record in pasture establishment and development in Australia and Indonesia and expertise in measuring soil erosion.

The specific objectives of the project are to:

  • study the climate of the red-soil area with a view to predicting forage productivity;
  • investigate establishment techniques for forages and trees; and
  • evaluate the productivity of grass and legume swards, determine the fertilisers required to maintain these swards, and assess their impact on soil and nutrient losses.

The project will help overcome the shortage of feedstuffs in southern China, supplement or replace the high-cost suburban production of livestock, and enlarge the area devoted to fruit, legumes, speciality crops and aquaculture. It will also help enlarge employment opportunities, and reduce income differentials between advanced lowland areas and backward hilly and mountainous areas. Information gained through the analysis of risk of pasture establishment and the modification of methods needed to enhance success will also benefit Australia.

Field studies are being conducted at two sites in Hunan province and one in Fujian province. The inclusion of Fujian province will extend the research into an area with a more maritime climate, where temperate perennial species may be ideally suited. The field studies are being complemented and supported by computer studies at UNE, where interactions between environment and plant growth are being investigated in order to give the results of the study general applicability in the entire red-soil region of southern central China.

Climatic data are being modelled to estimate the risk associated with sowing pastures at various times of the year and the potential productivity and stability of the pasture systems. Sward plots have been established at the three field sites with a number of species and measurements made of biomass production, plant quality and soil and water loss. Experiments have also been established at each site to determine the amounts of nutrients required and the residual effect of fertilisers. Pastures establishment trials have also been initiated. In Fujian province, a set of soil-loss runoff plots is being constructed and these will be planted to the most promising grass/legume/fertiliser combination, with and without trees planted at close intervals on the contour, for soil and nutrient loss studies.

Chinese scientists trained in Australia are supervising the field studies in Hunan province and studies in Fujian are being conducted by staff of FAAS. The Chinese scientists are working closely with their Australian collaborators.

Project Dates

01 Nov 1989 - 30 Jun 1993


Fujian Academy of Agricultural Sciences - China
Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences - China
University of New England - Australia


Dr J Scott


02 6773 2436

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