LANZHOU, Jan. 2 (Xinhua) -- While traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is favored by many patients to avoid the side effects of Western remedies, it is also a new choice for sick crops.
A remedy using extracts from multiple Chinese herbs was approved by the French certification body ECOCERT in mid-December, and was therefore allowed to be implemented in organic farming in the United States and Japan.
The biological remedy, developed by the research institute of natural medicine of Lanzhou Jiaotong University in Gansu Province, can effectively treat and prevent diseases in vegetables, fruit trees, tea and tobacco, without causing harm to crops and the environment, its research team said.
Since 2014, the remedy has been used in more than 60,000 hectares of farmland in Gansu, Yunnan, Shaanxi, Sichuan and Fujian provinces.
The Chinese government is encouraging biological remedies, which are much less toxic and more efficient than traditional pesticides, said Professor Shen Tong, who leads the team.
In early 2015, China started a campaign to ensure zero growth in pesticide application by 2020, as the country's average annual pesticide use in 2012-2014 rose 9.2 percent from the 2009-2011 level, weighing on production costs and food safety.
Under the move, China's pesticide use has dropped in the past three years, an official with the Ministry of Agriculture said last month.
Li Yuanzhu, who manages a 4-hectare wolfberry farm in Gansu's Yumen City, said the effect of the remedy had "exceeded expectations."
"In the past, we used pesticide to kill insects after they damaged the berries. But now, the herbal medicine can protect the berries from insects," Li said, adding that the crop has not been sick for over a year.
Last year, Li's wolfberries met standards for export to the European Union. "We plan to grow another 20 hectares and prepare for the export," he said.
A pilot program involving potatoes in Gansu saw the cure rate of a fungal disease reached 75 percent and output grew by 16 percent, said researcher Zhang Wenjie with the provincial station of plant protection and quarantine.
Developing biological remedies for crops has become a global consensus, China has mastered key technology, said Guo Qingyi with the provincial science and technology department.
The remedy won prizes at the annual China Yangling Agricultural Hi-Tech Fair, an influential event of its kind, in 2011, 2015 and 2017.
Gansu in China's northwest is the country's largest producer of TCM plants, recording an output of 1.1 million tonnes in 2016.