Chinese crops face emerging climate risks

China’s agricultural sector is facing emerging risks as a result of extreme weather and shifting planting conditions brought about by climate change, according to its agriculture ministry.

China’s farming belts have been hit by record temperatures and rainfall this year, as well as drought in the north, and Liu Lihua of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said the country is facing a surge in “extreme meteorological disasters”.

“The disasters have become more and more abnormal and unpredictable, bringing more and more challenges to agricultural production,” she told a press briefing.

Average rainfall has been rising by 5.1 millimetres every decade and rain belts have also been moving northwards, causing long-term shifts in planting areas. Waterlogged farmland last year made it difficult to harvest, with some regions hit by more rainfall in one month than they normally experience in a year.

The challenge of fighting disasters and maintaining bumper harvests in the flood-prone middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze river also remains “very arduous”, Liu said.

China will maintain grain supplies this year by increasing production in unaffected regions. Overall planting conditions remain favourable and autumn grain production was likely to be largely unchanged, she added.

She said China would take action to control pests and diseases caused by the changing climate.

China said in a climate adaptation plan published last month that planting methods were already changing as farmers responded to shifts in weather patterns. It also warned of the risks of forest fires and the spread of pests and diseases.  

It said farmers needed to “optimise” the relationship between agriculture and changing weather by switching to higher-yield and stress-resistant crops in order to handle the growing risks.

It also said it would set up a food security system capable of adapting to climate change, and would impose stricter controls over the use of farmland, with China committed to keeping total arable land at a minimum of 1.2 million square kilometres.