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Journal of Geographical Sciences    2019, Vol. 29 Issue (5) : 818-830     DOI: 10.1007/s11442-019-1630-1
Land engineering and its role for sustainable agriculture in the agro-pastoral ecotone: A case study of Yulin, Shaanxi Province, China
WU Wenhao1(),CHEN Zongfeng1,LI Yuheng2,*(),WANG Yongsheng2,YAN Jiayu2,3,SONG Chuanyao2,3
1. Faculty of Geographical Science, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
2. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
3. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
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With global climate change, the agricultural light-temperature potential productivity in the agro-pastoral ecotone has increased. This offers a good opportunity to develop agriculture in the agro-pastoral ecotone. However, the agro-pastoral ecotone is also an ecologically fragile area in which land degradation challenges agricultural development. As population grows and the need for food increases, the land carrying capacity of the agro-pastoral ecotone becomes insufficient, and the human-land relationship is not harmonious. Such conditions have limited the agricultural and rural development in the ecotone. The paper demonstrates how land engineering may improve land quality and support agricultural development in the ecotone based on studies at a research station established in 2015 in Yulin, Shaanxi Province, China. The studies target three factors: soil improvement, crop selection, and field management. The results show that: (1) The highest yield of crops planted on improved land is close to or even higher than that achieved under previous crop growth conditions. For instance, the corn yields can exceed 25%. (2) The potatoes grown on the improved land yield the highest gross income, reaching 67,200 yuan/ha. By way of land engineering, input costs can be balanced in 3-5 years. (3) As a result of land engineering, some villages in Yulin City have realized sustainable agricultural and even rural development, and promotion of this model will support the sustainable development of agriculture in the agro-pastoral ecotone.

Keywords agro-pastoral ecotone      land engineering      degraded land consolidation      human-land relationship      sustainability     
Fund:National Key Research and Development Program of China, No.2017YFC0504705;National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41771191, No.41471143
Corresponding Authors: LI Yuheng     E-mail:;
Issue Date: 19 April 2019
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WU Wenhao
CHEN Zongfeng
LI Yuheng
WANG Yongsheng
YAN Jiayu
SONG Chuanyao
Cite this article:   
WU Wenhao,CHEN Zongfeng,LI Yuheng, et al. Land engineering and its role for sustainable agriculture in the agro-pastoral ecotone: A case study of Yulin, Shaanxi Province, China[J]. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 2019, 29(5): 818-830.
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Figure 1  Location of the research station and agro-pastoral ecotones
Figure 2  Illustration of experimental cells
Figure 3  Urban and rural income gap in Yulin City
Figure 4  Evolution of industrial structure in Yulin City, 2000-2015
Figure 5  Evolution of employees in the three types of industries in Yulin City, 2000-2015
Figure 6  Evolution of employees in the three industries in terms of rural labor in Yulin City, 2000-2015
Crop types Planting area Yield (ton/ha) Unit price (yuan/kg) Gross income (yuan/ha)
Corn Experiment 12.00-14.25 1.40 16800-19950
Normal 11.25 15750
Potato Experiment 25.50-42.00 1.40-1.60 35700-67200
Normal 36.00 50400-57600
Soybean Experiment 3.60-4.50 4.00 14400-18000
Normal 3.00-4.50 12000-18000
Table 1  Comparison of crop yields and economic benefits between normal conditions and the present study for Yulin City in 2017
Compound types and ratios Raw material
Field leveling
Base fertilizer
Red clay and sand 1:1 90000 3000 3000 1200 97200
1:2 75000 3000 3000 1200 83200
1:3 67500 3000 3000 1200 74700
1:5 60000 3000 3000 1200 67200
Loess and sand 1:1 60000 3000 3000 1200 67200
1:2 50000 3000 3000 1200 57200
1:3 45000 3000 3000 1200 52200
1:5 40000 3000 3000 1200 47200
Table 2  Land consolidation costs for the study (for prices at 2014)
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