LANZHOU, May 2 (Xinhua) -- In addition to teaching economics at Lanzhou University, 55-year-old professor Yang Suchang spends most of his time studying cucumbers, tomatoes and other vegetables commonly grown by local farmers in a suburb greenhouse in northwest China's Gansu Province.
As a professor of the School of Economics, Yang has rich hands-on experience and academic training in poverty relief, and the study on planting vegetables in a greener way is what Yang believes is an efficient way to help farmers shake off poverty in the less-developed province.
Yang began his research on the experiences of the major agricultural provinces in China, such as Shandong Province. He found that a Shandong-based research center developed a green technology of using straw bioreactors to improve the growing environment of off-season vegetables.
Yang then reached out to Zhang Shiming, director of the center, and was told that decomposed maize straws can produce carbon dioxide, heat, spores and other ingredients favorable to the planting of pollution-free and high-quality crops.
In Gansu, a very large quantity of straws are produced each year, resulting in a real headache of environmental pollution and less-fertile land since the straws are usually burnt as waste.
The idea of straw bioreactors offers a solution to the problem in Gansu, Yang said.
He began to invite Zhang to give lessons among the farmers in Gansu to popularize the technology.
Since 2007, Yang spent a decade trying to convince the farmers of the efficiency of straw bioreactor.
He first rented five greenhouses in central Gansu's Yuzhong County in 2009 to grow the straw-fed vegetables. The strains Yang developed were then given to farmers for free, along with his guidance.
Wang Zairong, who runs a large local agricultural cooperative, was among the first to benefit from Yang's efforts.
"The new technique helps us notch a higher yield, 15 percent to 20 percent higher than the previous yield, and the vegetative period has been shortened," Wang said.
Wang added that fewer chemicals were used since the introduction of maize straws.
Yang also helps market the organic vegetables. He invites buyers to come to the greenhouses to pick the fruits and vegetables themselves, further boosting the sales of vegetables.
"Nowadays, consumers prefer greener and healthier food, so there is a huge market potential for our products," said Yang.
In December 2018, a training base was also set up by Yang to aid more farmers in joining the profitable business.
The idea of making use of agricultural waste will inspire more people to grow in an efficient and scientific way, Yang said.