HARBIN, Oct. 31 (Xinhua) -- Zhou Houchao, a 52-year-old farmer in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, has finally welcomed a harvest year, despite the COVID-19 epidemic, typhoons, and other difficulties.
But for Zhou and many farmers, a harvest is not their final goal. Good-quality rice is what they are after nowadays, as production and filling one's stomach is not the top priority for them anymore.
China's rice planting areas account for 20 percent of the total across the globe, with an annual output remaining above 200 million tonnes for years, nearly 40 percent of the world's total rice output.
In the past, China solved the problem of feeding some 1.4 billion people. Now the pursuit of quality is driving more farmers to change their traditional planting and management methods.
Having farmed for over 30 years, Zhou recalled that he overused pesticides and fertilizers for more yield, but the soil was hardened, and organic matter was lost, so he could not sell his rice at a competitive price any longer due to compromised quality.
As head of a local cooperative in Suibin County of Hegang City, Zhou took the lead in pursuing innovation in agricultural development.
A group of ducks is wandering in the yard of his cooperative. "These ducks live on rice fields in spring and summer, and their excrement can increase organic soil matter," Zhou introduced.
"This year, I raised fish, ducks, and crabs in rice fields, which is the symbol of organic farming and can effectively improve the quality of rice," Zhou said.
Besides more than 20 hectares of fields with ducks, Zhou also put crabs and fish in over 47 hectares of paddies.
"The yield of organic planting is lower, and artificial weeding is required, but such rice is in short supply in the market, with the income increased by about 3,000 yuan (about 450 U.S. dollars) per hectare," he said.
At a Nongjiang farm in the eastern part of the province, Wen Xuequan successfully improved the quality of his rice this year.
"The climate conditions were not suitable for growing high-quality rice in the past," he said. Due to lower temperatures and cold well water for irrigation, Wen couldn't grow better rice varieties before this year.
But during this farming season, with the help of a newly-built irrigation project, Wen's fields have access to river water nearby, with higher temperatures than the well water, which makes it possible to grow more varieties of rice.
As one of the first farmers to use river water for irrigation, Wen planted some 47 hectares of rice, and with good quality, his rice can help him earn 3,000 yuan more per hectare.
During the 3rd Heilongjiang International Rice Festival held earlier this month, 1,381 enterprises from 13 countries and regions participated in the festival, which saw deals worth 1.7 billion yuan.
The selection of the most delicious rice became the focus of this festival.
Known as China's "grain barn," Heilongjiang boasts the country's largest plantations of rice, corn, and beans. Data from the provincial department of agriculture and rural affairs show that its grain plantation area reached 14.37 million hectares this year, an increase of over 33,000 hectares from last year. Enditem