Innovation and Application: The Promotion of Science and Technology in Agriculture

From: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2012-10-08 14:49
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I. Identifying innovation in and widespread application of agricultural science and technology as a strategic priority

Science and technology constitute the primary productive force. Therefore, the level of agricultural science and technology determines the level of agricultural productive forces, while the extent of scientific and technological progress in agriculture determines the extent of agricultural modernization. China has made remarkable achievements in agricultural and rural development since the founding of the People’s Republic of China more than 60 years ago, and particularly during more than 30 years of reform and opening up. Agricultural science and technology have played a pivotal role in these achievements, and its contribution to increases in grain production and rural incomes has been undeniable. In 2011, the growth of grain output per unit area was responsible for 85.8% of the total growth that China recorded in its grain output. At the same time, the rate of mechanization in the planting and harvesting of crops reached 54.5%; and the contribution of science and technology to China’s agricultural growth stood at 53.5%. This indicates that science and technology have become the main driving force behind the development of agriculture and the rural economy in China.

Despite this, however, China’s tasks in the development of modern agriculture are set to become more arduous in the period ahead. Threatened by increasingly acute problems such as shortages of farmland and water, rising costs of agricultural production, the decline of the young labor force, and environmental pollution and ecological degradation, the country’s agricultural development is poised to encounter more severe challenges and risks. In transforming the pattern of agricultural development and making the development of agriculture more sustainable, it is essential that our efforts are underpinned by innovation and the widespread application of new scientific and technological advances in agriculture. Agricultural science and technology represent a foundation of national food security, an inevitable choice in the effort to overcome resource and environmental constraints, and a decisive force in accelerating the development of modern agriculture.

Science and technology present the fundamental solution to achieving the sustained and steady development of agriculture and the effective supply of agricultural products over the long term. China has arrived at the stage where it must rely more on advances in science and technology to promote the development of modern agriculture. Given the increasingly acute resource and environmental constraints that we are facing at present, it is important that we utilize science and technology as a means of transforming our mode of agricultural development, and strive to make our agricultural development innovation-driven. This represents the most important, crucial, and fundamental approach to the development of modern agriculture.

Liu Dongcai (right) and a fellow resident of Yushan Village in Wenfeng Town, Jishui County, Jiangxi Province, perform maintenance on a solar powered insect zapper (photo taken on May 25, 2012). In recent years, Jishui County has worked out plans to raise public understanding of science and reward scientific and technological advances. Under these plans, it has actively launched various activities to promote science and put innovations on display. These efforts have led to various achievements, such as the wide application of solar powered insect zappers, the doubling of yields by interplanting sugarcane and capsicum, and the awarding of a national patent on directly rechargeable mobile phones to Yongsheng Electronics. / Photo by Xinhua reporter Song Zhenping

In regard to the development of science and technology in agriculture, China is not only falling short of the level required for the establishment of a modernized agricultural sector, but is also lagging behind developed countries. This gap is mainly manifested in a lack of major innovations with independent intellectual property rights, a low level of application and popularization of advances in science and technology, a poor capacity in the spreading of agricultural techniques and provision of agricultural technical services, and an as yet insufficient contingent of agricultural scientists and technicians. To address these problems, we must enhance our sense of mission, responsibility, and urgency in accelerating innovation in agricultural science and technology, and adhere to a distinctly Chinese approach to the development of agricultural science and technology. We must accelerate our efforts to promote new advances in agricultural science and technology, apply these advances on a widespread basis, and rely on this approach in order to bring about the leapfrog development of agricultural science and technology in China. These efforts will provide a strong impetus for our initiatives to boost agricultural production, increase rural incomes, and bring prosperity to our rural areas.

II. Striving to make new breakthroughs in major tasks concerning the innovation and spreading of agricultural science and technology

At the current stage of our efforts to innovate and spread agricultural science and technology, we should strive to make new breakthroughs in the following five aspects:

1. Striving for new breakthroughs in the acceleration of innovation in agricultural science and technology, and particularly in the seed industry. Focusing on the key tasks of innovation in agricultural science and technology, we must devote major efforts to the development of a modern seed industry and cultivate a number of high-yield, high-quality, and special-purpose new crop varieties that are resistant to multiple diseases, have great practical value, and represent breakthroughs. We should encourage commercial seed cultivation companies and seed companies that are attached to research institutes to go independent, allow companies to exert their role in scientific and technological innovation, and provide support for the robust development of seed enterprises that integrate cultivation, reproduction, and distribution. In order to overcome constraints in the industrial management of agriculture, we should step up our efforts in the research and development of key technologies, such as technologies that blend the application of agricultural machinery with agronomy, reduce production costs and increase efficiency, and help to protect natural resources and the environment, as well as technologies for processing farm produce and ensuring the quality and safety of agricultural products. Efforts should also be made to promote the creation of new mechanisms. We should work out a mechanism for the approval of projects on the basis of industrial demand, develop a category-based appraisal mechanism whose primary index for evaluation is the resolution of actual problems, and strengthen mechanisms for large-scale collaboration between agricultural producers, research institutes, and universities.

2. Striving for new breakthroughs in the development of an agricultural technology extension system, and particularly in improving grassroots agricultural public service agencies. Government-run agricultural service agencies in towns and townships are at the forefront of our initiatives to invigorate agriculture through science and technology, prevent and control animal and plant epidemics, and ensure the quality and safety of agricultural products. They are a primary force that we must rely on in order to develop modern agriculture and build a new socialist countryside. Therefore, in order to meet the requirements for strengthening non-profit agricultural technology extension and agricultural technical services at the grassroots level, we must accelerate our efforts to strengthen the development of government-run agricultural service agencies in towns and townships. By clearly defining the non-profit nature and functions of these agencies, we will ensure that they effectively fulfill their functions in regard to agricultural technology extension, the prevention and control of animal and plant epidemics, and the quality and safety supervision of agricultural products. Moreover, efforts also need to be made to further improve the management system for government-run agricultural service agencies in towns and townships. To do this, we will allow agencies to manage both their affairs and their personnel; fully exert the combined capacity of agricultural technology extension and service institutions at the county and township levels; and advocate the provision of services at the township level whilst holding counties responsible for management. We will urge and encourage specialized farmer cooperatives, leading agricultural companies, and other non-public sector participants to engage in agricultural technology extension. Through these efforts, we will accelerate the formation of a framework for agricultural technology extension and services whereby government-run technology extension agencies play the major role and non-government service providers participate on a widespread basis, thereby raising the standard of agricultural services offered by all providers.

3. Striving for new breakthroughs in improving conditions for agricultural science and technology work, particularly conditions in town and township agricultural technology extension stations. The No.1 Decree issued by the CPC Central Committee this year clearly demands that the salaries of township and town agricultural technicians are tied to the average income of local public institution employees. The Decree also requires that the project to develop model counties for the reform and development of the grassroots agricultural technology extension system is extended to all farming counties, and that the project to improve conditions in agricultural technology extension agencies is extended to all towns and townships in the country in 2012. This is a major preferential policy that agricultural technicians have long anticipated. As such, we must take solid steps to put it into practice. We will promote the implementation of the policy to ensure adequate funding for the pay of grassroots agricultural technicians while basing their pay on performance, so as to raise their level of benefits. We will strive to make a breakthrough in the funding of grassroots agricultural technology extension stations. To do this, we will seek to allocate funds according to the scale of farming and breeding that stations are involved in as well as the effectiveness of the technical services that they provide. Efforts should be made to include such funds in the government budget. We will step up efforts to improve the conditions and capacity of town and township agricultural technology stations, ensuring that they have premises to work from, the means to provide services, vehicles to travel to villages, and sufficient funding for operations. We will strive to significantly increase investment in agricultural science and technology, increase efforts to provide steady support for agricultural scientific research, and raise the level of funding for non-profit agricultural research institutes.

4. Striving for new breakthroughs in the widespread application of practical agricultural technologies, especially major technologies for the prevention and mitigation of natural disasters, and for stabilizing and increasing agricultural production. Mitigating natural disasters is equal to increasing production in agriculture. Therefore, we will continue to rely on science and technology to prevent, avoid, and mitigate natural disasters. We will promptly issue specifically-targeted contingency plans and technical guidance schemes to combat and mitigate disasters, and step up efforts to promote the widespread use of key technologies in this regard. In line with requirements of various aspects of production, different farming seasons, and of important regions and major crop varieties, we will organize for scientists and technicians to visit the countryside and provide specific technical services to individual villages, farms, and households. This will ensure that all major farming counties and key villages have access to technical services, and that more advances in agricultural science and technology are made available to rural households. We will work to substantially increase subsidies for the use of key techniques to prevent and mitigate natural disasters, and to stabilize and increase agricultural production, with the focus being placed on the widespread application of key techniques such as corn mulching, the growth of rice seedlings in greenhouses, coordinated prevention and control of crop diseases and insect pests, and the prevention and control of animal epidemics. The application of these key techniques will provide a foundation for stabilizing grain production and agricultural development.

5. Striving for new breakthroughs in the training of agricultural personnel, particularly personnel with practical skills needed in rural areas. Qualified personnel represent the foundation of our initiatives to accelerate innovation in agricultural science and technology. We will step up our efforts to strengthen a contingent of outstanding personnel in agricultural research and build innovative research teams. Emphasis should be placed on fostering a large number of outstanding young and middle-aged researchers in agricultural science through existing key research plans, programs, and centers. At the same time, we will strengthen our contingent of personnel for the promotion of agricultural technologies. By instituting a plan to set up special posts for agricultural technology extension, we will encourage college graduates who have studied agriculture-related majors to take up employment in agricultural public service agencies at the county and township levels. This will help us to inject vigor into agricultural technology extension at the grassroots level and ensure that we have enough qualified personnel for the continuation of these efforts. We will also work to strengthen our contingent of personnel with practical skills needed for rural areas. By relying on vocational agricultural colleges, education and training centers for farmers, technology extension agencies, and agriculture-related enterprises as the major providers of training, we will carry out large-scale initiatives covering various categories, levels, and fields to impart agricultural personnel with practical skills. At the same time, we should also accelerate the training of personnel who boast a certain degree of expertise in agricultural services or rural social administration, or who serve as major agricultural producers or operators. We will concentrate efforts on fostering producers and operators of modern agriculture, such as farming and breeding households, family farms, and specialized farmer cooperatives. These initiatives will promote the professionalization of farmers and help to solve the problem of who will farm.

III. Taking solid steps to carry out activities for the “Year of Boosting Agriculture Through Science and Technology” and working to successfully complete key tasks regarding innovation in agricultural science and technology

This year, the Ministry of Agriculture has launched a nationwide “Year of Boosting Agriculture Through Science and Technology.” With a view to bringing science and technology into villages and households and providing a boost for increases in productivity and incomes, an extensive campaign has been launched to bring about large-scale collaboration between agriculture, science, and education. Agricultural experts and technicians have been mobilized and dispatched to sites of production in an effort to bring agricultural science and technology into villages, households, and farms.

1. We will strengthen independent innovation, and focus on implementing a number of science and technology projects in agriculture. By implementing science and technology projects such as those devoted to agricultural research for public benefit, and by relying on the system of industrial technologies for modern agriculture, we will launch a number of agricultural science and technology projects to meet the needs for the development of modern agriculture. We will organize joint efforts to tackle difficult problems in agricultural science and technology projects; increase non-profit, basic agricultural research; and devote more efforts to tackling key technological problems and integrating key technologies. In doing so, we will develop a number of core technologies at the forefront of agricultural science and technology which boast independent intellectual property rights and major practical value. We should also work to make progress in the development of agricultural research institutes by implementing an action plan to build research institutes for modern agriculture and accelerating the development of a system for modern research institutes characterized by clearly-defined responsibilities, scientific evaluations, openness and orderliness, and standardized management. These initiatives will help to provide the foundation for innovations in agricultural science and technology.

2. We will intensify scientific and technological services, and focus on promoting a number of superior crop varieties and agricultural techniques. In an effort to accelerate the conversion of advances in agricultural science and technology into actual productive forces, we will choose a number of primary varieties and simplified practical techniques for popularization via science and technology handbooks, radio, television, and mobile Internet. We will establish a mechanism to link agricultural scientific research to the widespread adoption of research results. Through this mechanism, teams of agricultural experts will be assigned to maintain contact with major farming counties. At the same time, working through the project to launch demonstration counties for the reform and development of the grassroots agricultural technology extension system, we will institute a nationwide practice whereby agricultural technicians are assigned to individual villages and specialized farmer cooperatives on a household basis. These technicians will provide a full range of scientific and technological services and help farmers to overcome practical problems that they face in production. At the same time, we will extensively carry out coordinated and specialized initiatives for the prevention and control of crop diseases and insect pests in major grain producing areas, areas that exhibit strengths in growing cash crops, and sources of major crop diseases and insect pests. To do this, we will focus on supporting a number of key organizations and training a number of crop protection technicians with the capacity to integrate the application of green techniques for crop protection.

3. We will strengthen the development of the seed industry, and focus on creating a number of key seed enterprises. We will formulate and implement plans for the development of the crop seed industry, probe into a new system of commercial breeding that integrates cultivation, reproduction, and distribution, and fully exert the important role of companies in breeding varieties, applying advances in science and technology in production, and spreading the use of technologies. We will strengthen the development of seed production bases in areas that exhibit strengths in producing seeds, and speed up efforts to implement seed projects, projects for comprehensive development, and the project to increase China’s grain output capacity by 50 million tons. We will develop a number of large-scale, standardized, mechanized and intensive seed production bases in strong seed producing areas such as the northwest, the southwest, and Hainan Province, where we will introduce and demonstrate superior crop varieties and accelerate the popularization of new varieties. We will improve the regulation of seed supply and demand, allocate the supply of seeds effectively across regions, and tighten controls with regard to the approval of seed varieties, market access, seed producing bases, and quality testing, so as to ensure seed safety.

4. We will make greater efforts to increase grain output, and focus on developing a number of counties, cities, townships, and towns with high and stable grain output. We will launch a large-scale campaign to increase the output of grain, cotton, oil seeds and sugar crops. By spreading the use of integrated technologies, matching superior varieties with appropriate techniques, combining the application of agricultural machinery with agronomy, and adopting innovative methods in agricultural production, we will promote the balanced increase of production over large areas. We will launch fully integrated efforts to increase grain output in select counties, cities, townships, and towns with sound basic conditions and considerable potential for output increases. We will launch pilot projects to increase agricultural production in the whole prefectures and cities where conditions permit. We will launch a campaign to promote the standardized production of non-staple foods, developing an additional number of standardized plantations for vegetables, fruits and tea, standard demonstration farms for livestock and poultry, and standard demonstration farms for the healthy farming of aquatic products, thus achieving the full coverage of standardized production techniques.

5. We will intensify technical training, and focus on developing a contingent of rural scientific and technological personnel. We will step up the training of grassroots agricultural technicians to ensure that they are familiar with the latest knowledge, and focus on the training of backbone technicians who have made outstanding contributions to the spreading of agricultural techniques in rural areas. We will intensify training in regard to practical agricultural techniques. Intensive training courses in agricultural science and technology should be provided at all levels, through various channels, and in various forms during non-farming seasons, so as to improve farmers’ ability to farm in a scientific way. In regard to agricultural mechanized management and the application of science and technology, we will provide training to promote technology extension and turn out a contingent of personnel with practical skills. In major grain producing counties, we will organize for seed enterprises who integrate cultivation, reproduction, and distribution to demonstrate new crop varieties and provide training programs for high-yield techniques involving superior varieties and methods, so as to raise the popularization rate of superior crop varieties.

6. We will enhance capacity building, and focus on developing a number of experimental demonstration bases.In light of related industrial development plans, we will implement a number of projects to develop crop improvement centers, science and technology centers for animal epidemic prevention, and R&D centers for technologies for processing farm produce. We will focus on developing 10,000 experimental demonstration bases for agricultural science and technology. By making use of the functions of these bases in research, demonstration, and training, we will accelerate the application and widespread use of advances in science and technology in production. We will work hard to improve the conditions and capacity of rural agricultural technology extension agencies; expand capacity building to all township or regional agricultural technology extension agencies; and equip the newly built, renovated, or expanded office buildings of these agencies with inspection and testing instruments, technology extension apparatus, and means of transportation. In doing so, we will constantly raise the capacity of local governments in the provision of public services related to agriculture.


(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No.5, 2012)

 

Author: Minister of Agriculture of the People’s Republic of China

  

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