China needs to cut use of chemical fertilizers: research

A farmer carrying fertilizer walks on a farmland on the outskirts of Anshun, Guizhou province, March 5, 2009. REUTERS/China Daily

BEIJING (Reuters) - China, the world’s largest grain producer and top consumer of fertilizers, should reduce its reliance on chemical fertilizers by as much as 50 percent because excessive use has resulted in serious pollution, according to a research report.

“Not many people are aware that agriculture is the largest polluter in China, which should be a subject for serious concern,” said Wen Tiejun, head of the School of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development, Renmin University of China.

Chemical fertilizers had helped China, the world’s most populous country, to feed its population despite limited farmland, but excessive application had led to low farmland efficiency and serious pollution, according to a research report issued by the school and Greenpeace on Thursday.

The report said farmers, particularly in northern China, used 40 percent more fertilizers than crops needed, resulting in about 10 million tons of fertilizer every year being discharged into water, polluting China’s rivers and lakes.

China produced 24 percent of the world’s total grain output, but its use of fertilizer accounted for about 35 percent of total global consumption. China’s grain production had increased more than eight-fold from the 1960s, while use of nitrogen fertilizers had surged by about 55 times, the report said.

It also urged the government to reduce subsidies to fertilizer makers and called for more support for farmers who use animal waste.

Reporting by Niu Shuping and Beijing Newsroom; Editing by Chris Lewis and Jerry Norton