A paste helping desert soils to retain water and nutrients



China Invents Paste To Make Sand Fertile

Researchers from Chongqing University have developed a paste which helps desert soils to retain water and nutrients

Source: Chinese Academy of Sciences

by Michael Friedländer, Eatglobe thumb_62202_avatar_normal

Plants in an oasis near Dunhuang in the western part of Gobi desert – http://i2.eatglobe.com/article/0001/74/thumb_73042_article_normal.jpeg

The Chinese Academy of Sciences announced in early September that a team of researchers from Chongqing Jiatong University has developed a paste which helps sand to retain water and nutrients.

The finding has great significance for fighting and reversing desertification which represents a major problem in China. Half of China is composed of arid and semi-arid regions which are situated in the country’s North and Northwest (see map). Until the early years of this century, desertification has increased, largely due to over-exploitation of the land.

Major, centrally planned programmes to fight desertification through reforestations and restrictions on land use have since succeeded to stop further desertification. However, the long-term success of these measures is uncertain. For example, it has been shown in some regions that reforestation can lead to increased desertification by taking away scarce water resources from other plants. And restrictions on land use can drive people into covert farming activities if they have no alternative sources of income.

The researchers who developed the paste started their work in two sites in Chongqing where desert soil conditions were simulated, using the paste. However, the plants grown, rice, corn and potatoes, still profited from ample rainfall typical for Chongqing, which is situated in south-central China. Next, larger-scale test fields were built with the help of the paste in the Ulan Buh section of the Gobi desert last April.

Read the full story: Eatglobe

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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