Verdant winter oats are swaying with the wind under the blue sky in Daqiao township, Huize county of southwest China’s Yunnan province, unfolding a picturesque scenery that indicates a bumper harvest.
According to experts, the county’s 50,000 mu (3333.3 hectares) of winter oats are expected to yield 280 to 300 kilograms per mu, while the high-yield species 400 kilograms.
Dr. Xu Lijun, an oat expert coming to Huize from Beijing for technical guidance, was very glad to see the rolling fields. Since November 2017, she has made nearly 20 trips to the county.
“It was hard at the beginning, as it was not easy for the people here to accept the new oat varieties,” she told People’s Daily on the phone.
“They don’t trust empty talks, so if you want them to accept, you must show them the results. That’s what we must do in our efforts to reduce poverty through science and technology and let the people benefit from innovation,” she added.
Located in the frigid highlands, Huize county in the northeastern part of Yunnan Province has a mountainous landscape and a severe climate. With few arable land, the county is stricken by extreme poverty.
To alleviate poverty there, the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE) designated to offer pair assistance for the county began to take actions. Wangbo, an official with the CAE, started working as the deputy head of the county since July 2017.
He set up platforms, invited experts, and introduced technologies. After investigations and surveys, he shifted his attention to oats.
Oats are a traditional commercial crop in Huize county, but the yield was low due to the outdated varieties and inferior technologies. The maximum yield per mu stood at only 60 to 70 kilograms.
As it happened, Wang’s wife Xu Lijun is an expert on oat, who was tutored by Sun Qizhong, a specialist at Institute of Grassland Research Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS). Therefore, Xu invited Sun to join Wang’s plan to revitalize the county with oats, and the plan has won great support from the CAAS.
Xu came to the county in November 2017 for the first time. Under the joint efforts of multiple parties, the couple introduced more than 20 varieties of quality oats and started trial planting in Daqiao township and other places in the county in 2018.
As Huize county has more vacant fields and a suitable winter climate, the couple decided to grow winter oats there.
To reassure the farmers, Xu came to visit Huize county every winter. While she was busy working in the experimental fields, she offered technical guidance to the “pioneer” farmers.
In the spring of 2019, Yunnan was hit a severe drought that led to five consecutive rainless months. Production of local crops, including the oats, dropped significantly, and some were even hit by total failure.
Fortunately, Xu’s oats withstood the drought, and two varieties had a yield of over 300 kg per mu.
Amazed by the new varieties, more local farmers chose to plant them. With the support of the local government, Xu started offering training courses for farmers, in which she introduced new techniques and varieties to them. Testing a new mode of farming, households in eight villages of Daqiao township saw their income increase by 9,000 yuan ($1,271) on average last year.
Last winter, the new oat varieties were planted on more than 50,000 mu of farmland in 11 townships of the county. The 15,873 people from 4,755 impoverished households planted a total of 16,000 mu.
After the novel coronavirus pneumonia broke out at the beginning of the year, Xu and relevant department frequently held video conferences with the farmers to solve their problems.
She told the People’s Daily that the local market price of oat kernel is 6 yuan per kilogram, and that of oat straw is 0.8 yuan per kilogram. After deducting the operational cost, the farmers could get a net income of 1,500 yuan to 1,800 yuan per mu. Moreover, they can make extra income in the summer by growing potatoes. This means the yield of each mu alone is enough to lift a poor individual out of poverty.
Xu is pleased to see that the oats, which originate from the cold areas in north China, flourish in the highlands of Wumeng Mountain in southwest China.
Not long ago, a provincial level working station named after Xu was approved, and the CAE also launched a consultation program for poverty alleviation. All these good news has boosted she’s and her husband’s confidence in the future of the county’s oat industry.