Research Articles

Land consolidation engineering and modern agriculture: A case study from soil particles to agricultural systems

  • LIU Yansui , 1, 2, 3 ,
  • ZHENG Xiaoyu 1, 2, 4 ,
  • WANG Yongsheng 1, 2 ,
  • CAO Zhi , 1, 2, * ,
  • LI Yuheng 1, 2 ,
  • WU Wenhao 3 ,
  • LIU Zhengjia 1, 2 ,
  • LIU Huaihua 5 ,
  • LI Rui 5
  • 1. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
  • 2. Center for Assessment and Research on Targeted Poverty Alleviation, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
  • 3. Faculty of Geographical Science, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
  • 4. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • 5. Yulin Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Yulin 719000, Shaanxi, China
Corresponding author:Cao Zhi (1989-), specialized in land science and rural development. E-mail:

Author: Liu Yansui (1965-), Professor, specialized in land use science, land engineering and urban-rural development. E-mail:

Received date: 2018-03-07

  Accepted date: 2018-05-20

  Online published: 2018-12-20

Supported by

National Key R&D Program of China, No.2017YFC0504701; National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41801174


Journal of Geographical Sciences, All Rights Reserved


Land consolidation engineering is one of the very important ways to improve the quality of farmland and the level of agricultural productivity. Studies of land consolidation and crop cultivation still mainly focus on single land functional optimization or crop breeding and yields. However, whether the improved crop varieties were sown on healthy and fertile soils is still a question. This paper introduces new ideas and engineering measures for sandy land rehabilitation and modern agricultural development in the Mu Us Sandy Land, Shaanxi Province, Western China. The important roles of particles and aggregates in soil reconstruction were confirmed following three innovative microscopic theories, including micro-structure, micro-morphology and micro-mechanism. New soil was constructed based on the physical complementarity of sandy, clay and loess particles in the Yulin area, northern Shaanxi Province. Field experiments were carried out to study the appropriate mixture ratio of different soils and their suitability for different crops. The improved crop varieties were sown on healthy and fertile soils, which were chosen by coupling according to its soil ecological suitability and crop physiological adaptability. The fertility improvement practices in the new constructed soils with different crops integrated water and fertilizer management measures, which were also provided in the experiment. Overall, an integrated land optimization configuration with improved and optimized crop variety selection was suggested for engineering sandy land-oriented consolidation from the soil particles to the agricultural system.

Cite this article

LIU Yansui , ZHENG Xiaoyu , WANG Yongsheng , CAO Zhi , LI Yuheng , WU Wenhao , LIU Zhengjia , LIU Huaihua , LI Rui . Land consolidation engineering and modern agriculture: A case study from soil particles to agricultural systems[J]. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 2018 , 28(12) : 1896 -1906 . DOI: 10.1007/s11442-018-1570-1

1 Introduction

Generally, there are many challenges facing the world’s agricultural industry, including production resources, demand, agricultural populations, labor, infrastructure, natural hazards, total products and their structures, and operational costs and benefits. Modern agriculture, which has high yields and efficiency, is considered to be an approach to resolve these issues (Jordan et al., 2007; Chen et al., 2014; Zhang et al., 2016). Healthy, ecological and highly efficient farmland is the basis of modern agriculture. However, agricultural modernization and sustainable agricultural development are restricted by the differences in regional resource endowments (Platteau et al., 1998) and rapid urbanization (Liu et al., 2014).
From 1978 to 2016, China’s urbanization rate increased from 17.91% to 57.35%, reflecting a growth rate twice as fast as the world average over the same period. Rapid urbanization leads to serious land-use problems, such as cultivated land loss, abandoned housing land, land pollution and erosion, among others (Liu, 2015). Along with urbanization and city sprawl, growing competition for land, water and energy will affect grain production and food security (Godfray et al., 2010). China’s government has undertaken a series of strong policy measures to protect land resources. A strictest cultivated land protection system and an economic land-use system have been included into land management systems (Liu et al., 2014; Liu and Li, 2017). Moreover, the innovation of the cultivated land occupation-compensation balance was implemented to control cultivated land loss. From the perspective of national cultivated lands, supplementary cultivated lands are in balance, but their quality is poor due to the use of more productive land rather than worse land as well as use of nearer land and compensating for farther land (Guo and Wang, 2016). As high quality farmland is continuously depleted, land degradation becomes increasingly serious. Consolidation and reclamation of degraded land and unused land are hopeful prospects for cultivated land supplementation. Thus, it is urgent to develop a new mode of agricultural production that matches the bearing capacity of resources and the environment. Soil physiochemical properties need to be regulated to increase its productivity. Land consolidation attempts to integrate and optimize resource elements, to reconcile land use conflict, and to improve agricultural production environment for the purpose of enhancing land productivity and coordinating urban and rural development (Liu et al., 2014; Long, 2014). Land consolidation enlists the idea of the trinity of quantity control, quality management and ecological protection to enhance land use efficiency (Yan et al., 2015).
At the national level, the Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Center of the Ministry of Land and Resources of China was established in 1998. Related land consolidation projects in China were also launched in the same year. Initially, land consolidation emphasized increasing the quantity of farmland via land consolidation, land exploitation and land reclamation, which focused on the existing agricultural land, unused land, vacant urban construction land and damaged farmlands (Yan et al., 2015; Jin et al., 2017). Approximately 2.64 million ha of farmland will be supplemented from 1.19 million ha of farmland consolidation, 0.4 million ha of damaged land reclamation and 1.05 million ha of unused land consolidation. An area of 0.75 million ha of rural settlement is estimated to be consolidated by 2020 (Yan et al., 2012). Recently, most land consolidation projects have devoted engineering practices to the construction of fields, roads, water, villages and forests, especially focusing on building high-standard farmland (Long, 2014; Jin et al., 2017). In total, high-quality, stable-yield cultivated land will reach 53.33 million ha by 2020, after China’s 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020), and this amount will account for more than 50% of China’s basic farmland (Yan et al., 2012).
Generally, land consolidation engineering is considered to be a key factor of modern agricultural development, ecological construction, and sustainable land utilization (Wang et al., 2015; Liu et al., 2016; Liu, 2018). However, the benefits of land consolidation have obvious regional differences and the driving factors of land consolidation are different according to different policy designs, which results in uncertainty in agricultural productivity (Jin et al., 2017). The national strategy of science and technology innovation in land and resource use emphasizes that land engineering technology plays a vital role in improving farmland quality, remediating land degradation, utilizing abandoned land and repairing the land ecology. An accurate analysis of the crucial obstacles to agricultural development is the key to resolving “land malaise”, particularly in the field of inherent soil elements, forms, and structures. At present, functional land optimization is still the main goal of many land consolidation projects. Local governments still pay more attention to land development rather than land consolidation (Liu et al., 2014). The limiting factors of crop production and relative land engineering measures have been poorly studied in current projects. It is necessary to develop land consolidation engineering in China. Improvements in land engineering and technological innovation should be intensified to solve land shortage, degradation and inefficiency problems.
The key issues in modern agricultural development are high-yielding cultivars, irrigation, mechanization, and chemical fertilizers and pesticides (Foley et al., 2005). The development trend of international modern agriculture includes blue agriculture based on marine resources, white agriculture based on industrial microbial resources, molecular agriculture based on transgenic technology, and space agriculture based on genetic traits variation using space technology. Improvement of crop varieties generates higher yields in challenging environments and can help to meet food security needs (Godfray et al., 2010). However, declining soil quality, with its heterogenic conditions, abiotic stress combinations, and global climatic changes, is challenging the world’s agriculture. In China, the reduction or total loss of super hybrid rice yields account for the lack of associated cultivation techniques and suitable cultivated soil. Therefore, how to sow improved crop varieties on healthy and fertile soils becomes an important factor in modern agriculture development. Coupling soil ecological suitability and crop physiology adaptability is estimated to increase grain production. There could be broad applications for optimizing the reconstruction of agricultural production environments and promoting the transformation of agricultural systems through the use of land engineering technology as well as implementation of land construction, and soil quality improvement technological systems.
Anthropogenic desertification and limited natural resources are obstacles to agricultural development in Northern China. Sandy land has poorly developed soil profiles and a loose consistency. Barren sandy soils are characterized by continuous drifting of sand, low organic matter content, and weak biological activity (Feng et al., 2002). In previous studies, sandy land control research and practical measures have been conducted to rehabilitate desertified lands and improve agricultural production. In practical engineering, natural organic matter (Ma et al., 2009), and a mixture of arsenic rock (Wang et al., 2014) or loess (Wang and Wu, 2009) were added to sandy soils to improve the physical characteristics and water holding capacity of sandy land. However, the new soil structure was formed by breaking down the particles or aggregate assemblages, and then rearranging or reorienting them during the rehabilitation stage. The mixture still requires physical blending, chemical cementation and biological accumulation before it can function as a “real soil” (Wang et al., 2014). Furthermore, it is critical to match appropriate crop species with agricultural management measures in the newly constructed soil to achieve the sustainable development of sandy land and agricultural production. Our objective is to present new ideas and engineering measures regarding sandy land rehabilitation, and to clarify the linkage between sandy land consolidation and modern agriculture.

2 Study area

2.1 Mu Us Sandy Land

Mu Us Sandy Land has an area of approximately 42,200 km2, with major regions of desertification, development and reversion in Northern China. Sandy land is easily moved due to the sparse vegetation and unconsolidated sand under harsh dry and windy weather conditions. The desertification process is associated with vegetation degradation, productivity reduction, fragile ecosystems, environmental deterioration and economic loss (Karnieli et al., 2014). Sandy land soil with little or no structure is highly permeable under both wet and dry conditions and it retains little or no water. The soil physical and chemical properties such as soil clay, soil organic matter, and total nitrogen decrease during desertification which affects the regional ecosystems (Yang et al., 2010). The control of sandy land can improve the ecological conditions and increase the amount of farmland (Han et al., 2012). To date, local governments and residents have done much to combat desertification, such as planting trees bushes and grasses; building long windbreaks, shelterbelts and barriers; constructing pastureland enclosures; performing chemical mulching; and developing hydrologic solutions (Jiang, 2002). A monitoring program revealed that the average vegetation coverage in the sandy lands increased from 17.63% in 2004 to 18.69% in 2009 (Karnieli et al., 2014).

2.2 Yulin study site

The selected area for sandy land rehabilitation in this study is in the Yuyang district, Yulin city, Shaanxi Province, China (Figure 1). The north and south of Yulin city is a wind-sand-grass shoal region and loess hilly-gully region, accounting for 42% and 58% of the total area, respectively. The area of sandy badlands is approximately 5.3 million ha, accounting for 91.65% of the total unused land of Yulin. The agriculture pattern is identified by the coexistence of farm and livestock husbandry (Wang et al., 2013). The typical warm temperate continental monsoon climate dominates this region. The average annual temperature and average annual precipitation are 8.1℃ and 413.9 mm, respectively. In the surface soil (0-20 cm), the total nitrogen content is 0.75 g kg-1, total phosphorus content is 0.63 g kg-1, total potassium content is 26.51 g kg-1 and the organic matter content is 3.32 g kg-1 (Wang et al., 2016).
Figure 1 Locations of Yulin city and the study site
Our study area has relatively rich groundwater resources, originating from phreatic water from fissures in the upper Jurassic and Quaternary sediments. Abundant subsurface flow is also found within a 20-m depth below the river bed (Wang et al., 2013). Land resource development and utilization can be supported by the relatively abundant groundwater resources and heat energy. Therefore, Yulin was considered to be the second granary of Shaanxi Province in 2013. However, general and long-term land overuse resulted in severe land degradation and desertification (Wang et al., 2014). Cultivated land quantity and quality were the main factors limiting grain production in Yulin (Ning et al., 2016). Land degradation and desertification limit the improved crop varieties superiority due to the depleted soil fertility. There is an urgent need to improve the sandy land quality and increase agricultural production through sandy land rehabilitation.

3 Sandy soil reconstruction ideas

3.1 Importance of soil particles

Soil is the foundation of the earth’s biosphere. Soil not only produces food and fiber but also sustains ecosystem function and environmental quality (Glanz, 1995). Particles are the basic unit or component of soil. In some cases, particles are randomly oriented, and in other cases, they are arranged in particular forms that can be oriented, or dispersed (Sivakumar et al., 2002). Aggregates originate from the combination of rearranged mineral particles with organic and inorganic substances (Bronick and Lal, 2005). The soil structure is associated with the degree of aggregate stability (Duiker et al., 2003). A favorable soil structure and high aggregate stability are important to improving soil fertility, increasing agronomic productivity, enhancing porosity and decreasing erodibility (Bronick and Lal, 2005).
Complex interactions among various soil properties determine the soil’s potential fitness to produce healthy and nutritious crops (Parr et al., 1992). Sandy soils have low water retention and few macro- and micronutrients due to poor mineral and organic colloids (Weber et al., 2007). Clays are capable of storing and releasing plant nutrients. However, higher clay soils commonly have low hydraulic conductivity and poor tilth and aeration (Dunker and Darmody, 2005). The physical complementarity of sandy and clay soils means that they can be used to construct a new type of soil and increase its productivity. The non-capillary porosity in sandy soil is filled by clay, and aggregates can be formed and cemented with carbonate materials and silicate minerals. Aggregates prevent water and fertilizers from leaching to deeper depths during crop growth periods and avoid useless evaporation in drought periods (Wang et al., 2013).

3.2 New ideas for sandy soil reconstruction

Soil reconstruction includes soil profile reconstruction and soil structure reconstruction. Good quality soil is defined as having a loose surface layer and tight subsoil that can produce and sustain crops. Supplementary materials are used to improve the structure of degraded land. The structure of the newly mixed soil is formed by first breaking down the particles or aggregate assemblages, and then rearranging them. Water and the soil structure are crucial for soil creation, soil configuration, soil improvement and fertilizer coupling. The soil particle composition and profile structure can be improved in regard to water and nutrient retention through soil reconstruction. Therefore, the innovative microscopic theory, including micro-structure, micro-morphology, and micro-mechanism, was established for agricultural land engineering to couple soil stability, structure rationality and functional efficiency. In research on the development of high-quality farmland, Liu et al., (2016) proposed a theoretical innovation: the soil components, water and soil configuration, and farmland landscape formed a structural chain. Three important issues need to be noted in regard to soil reconstruction. First, suitable materials are widely distributed and convenient for soil construction in the study area. Second, the structure parameters of sandy and clay soils are basic to engineering practice. Third, more chemical and organic fertilizers need to be artificially added to improve the low fertility in the newly mixed soil (Wang et al., 2013). Economic and ecological benefits are also the objectives of sandy soil reconstruction engineering. Various integrative sandy control methods have been developed in recent years. Amendments, such as chemical hydrophilic polymers, viscous pastes, municipal sewage sludge, and plastic-films, can increase the water and nutrient holding capacity of sandy land. However, the above measures have limitations, due to their high cost and potential soil pollution (Han et al., 2012). Sandy soil reconstruction methods use natural, cheap and convenient materials to improve the sandy land structure. Therefore, this economic and ecological concept has much promise and could be very effective.

4 Sandy land consolidation and modern agriculture

4.1 Materials selection and properties

Red clay and loess are discontinuously distributed and overlaid by sandy land in the central and southern parts of the Mu Us Sandy Land (Zhu et al., 1980). The grain size of red clay is similar to that of loess, with a median size of approximately 4-8 µm. The thicknesses of the red clay and loess deposits at Mu Us Sandy Land are approximately 60 m and 256 m, respectively (Ding et al., 1998). Red clay is mainly used for making bricks and has a price of 6 US dollars per cubic meter. Moreover, loess is generated from rock and soil, forming processes with substantial amounts of fine sandy loam and silt loam. Loess has strong tensile and stress joints, often giving rise to soil collapses that can occur after only 1 to 2 minutes in water (Shi and Shao, 2000). The red clay and loess used in the field experiment were collected from Qinhe town of Yulin city.

4.2 Experimental design

Dry mixtures of sand and red clay and dry mixtures of sand and loess at volume ratios of 1:0.2, 1:0.5, 1:1, 1:2, 1:3 and 1:5 were prepared in our Yulin research station in Niujialiang village. Single sand, red clay and loess were treated as the controls. The soil mass, soil profile and soil structure were discussed in the engineering process. Maize, tomato and soybean were planted in the mixed soils. The experimental objective was to sow the improved crop varieties on healthy and fertile soils as determined by coupling soil ecological suitability and crop physiological adaptability. The integrated land optimization configuration with an improved, optimized crop variety selection was suggested to achieve sandy soil oriented consolidation.

4.3 Soil reconstruction methods and crop management measures

4.3.1 Soil reconstruction methods
The comprehensive framework of the experiment included soil reconstruction, crop optimizing selection and farming management measures (Figure 2). The specific procedures are elaborated here using the mixture of sandy land and red clay with a volume ratio of 1:1 as an example. The barren sandy soil was mechanically flattened and compacted to form plough pans. Branches and roots were removed during the flattening period. Barren sandy land was overlaid with red clay at a thickness of 30 cm, and the particle size was less than 4 cm. Then, a 15 cm layer of sand was spread on top of red clay. The surface sand (15 cm) and partial subsurface red clay (15 cm) were thoroughly blended into the plough layer with an excavator and subsoiler. The remaining 15 cm of red clay was considered the plow layer for water and nutrient conservation. Degraded sandy land was transformed into productive new land by improving the soil particle and profile structure.
Figure 2 Comprehensive framework of sandy land consolidation and modern agriculture
4.3.2 Crop management measures
The fertility of the newly constructed soil was not enough to support crop growth. Consequently, chemical fertilizers and organic fertilizers were added to accumulate nutrients and improve the mixed soil quality. Organic matter offers more soil cementing agents to support the formation of advanced porosity and prevent soil crusting (Wang et al., 2013). As for farm management, fertigation techniques were used for getting effective fertilization and to improve water capacity and feasibility. Different chemical fertilizers were dissolved and pumped into the same pipeline for fertilization. Water was dripped via three different pipelines to satisfy the demand of the three crops. The water volume was automatically recorded and summed in regard to irrigation to develop a detailed program for each crop.

4.4 Key issues in our research

According to the soil reconstruction process, borrowed red clay or loess and the original sandy land were mixed to create a newly topsoil, which was subjected to ploughing and farming activities. Scenarios on land consolidation and modern agriculture are proposed from soil particle to agricultural system (Figure 3). First, particle materials with different physical characteristics were adopted to determine which was convenient for blending with sand in the Mu Us sandy land. Second, different prescriptions with six mixed ratios were carried out to understand which was more beneficial for forming stabilized aggregates and a favorable soil structure. Third, different, locally grown crops were selected to examine which was suitable for coupling soil ecological suitability with crop physiological adaptability. Last, the different benefits to economic and ecological aspects were studied to determine which was better for improving land productivity and ecosystem services.
Figure 3 Scenarios on land consolidation and modern agriculture: from soil particles to agricultural systems
Four key issues were studied in the present research according to the above research questions (Figure 4). Crop performance is susceptible to the physical properties of reconstructed soil. The soil particle composition, bulk density, soil porosity and soil pH value were measured after blending sand with red clay or loess to distinguish the better mixing materials. The particle with a 4-cm diameter for red clay and loess was considered in our study, according to the previous experimental results on arsenic stone (Wang et al., 2014). In addition, the organic manure fertilization amount and variety were also important to the structure and formation of the newly constructed soil. Second, after a series of physical blending, chemical cementation and biological processes, the preserving capacity of water and nutrients of the newly constructed soil were gradually improved after sustained fertility treatments (Wang et al., 2013). Soil samples were collected from depths of 0-20 cm and 20-40 cm once per month. The total and available contents of soil nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium were determined to monitor the dynamics of nutrients pool and release rates at different mixed ratios. Third, a desirable microbial group can easily survive if the soil physical and chemical environment is favorable (Dunker and Darmody, 2005). Microorganisms play a vital role in the acquisition and turnover of nutrients in soil. The microbial community structure and functional gene abundances were measured using the phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) and terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism methods. In view of the increased density of organisms in the mixed soil, it was expected that associative relationships would be particularly pronounced, with favorable effects on the plant. Last, there are significant correlations among leaf photosynthesis, root biomass and crop yield across all cultivars (Elsharkawy et al., 1990). Root penetration into the clay soil and sand was primarily horizontal and vertical respectively. The crop rooting behavior in the newly constructed soils changed due to the extensive soil porosity differences between aggregates. The root biomass and morphology in different soil profiles and the crop yield and quality can provide insight into the improved soil structure and nutrition status.
Figure 4 Key issues in the present research

5 Conclusions and prospects

Various land use issues are associated with global climate change, rapid urbanization and unreasonable land use, including sandification, salinization and soil erosion. These problems need to be diagnosed to determine their essential obstacles. Soil reconstruction processes, including engineering measurements, plot experiments and field observations provide the technology needed for land consolidation. Testing land and soil recommendations and structuralization land consolidation engineering is the key to building healthy land and ecological farmland. At the macro level of the national strategy, high-standard farmland and modern agriculture can be achieved through integration with ecological protection, infrastructure construction, water conservation and field management. Multi-functional modern agricultural development and people-land-inductry amalgamation is the key to achieving idyllic countryside revitalization strategy. Overall, land management innovation and land engineering popularization properly address the current land-use problems in China (Figure 5). Related land engineering technonolgy system and whole chain of land project management mechanism should be intensified through soil reconstruction, farmland building and land improvement from micro, meso and macro level, respectively.
Figure 5 Land use issues and related developmental schemes
A comprehensive model with land consolidation engineering measures and crop management measures was established based on the above field experiments. Soil reconstruction with natural red clay or loess is an economic and ecological method for sandy land improvement. Red clay and loess made the large-scale sandy land consolidation utilization possible. Abundant loess can be used to improve sandy land at the border of the Mu Us Sandy Land and Loess Plateau. Red clay sequences were found under the Quaternary loess (Qiang et al., 2011). Red clay was exposed to the surface after the total erosion of the overlaid loess. The Mu Us Sandy Land southward expansion improves sandy land and has a sufficient amount of red clay. In addition, red clay is also found in the Junggar Basin (Feng et al., 2010), providing suitable material for the development of the adjacent Hobqi Desert. Effective protective measures should be carried out in the red clay and loess borrow site. Selection of other crop varieties, such as alfalfa and forage rape, will benefit husbandry development in agro-pastoral transition zones. Therefore, as an important rural geographic engineering, field experiments and demonstration will accelerate the application of our comprehensive model of land consolidation engineering in sandy land to promote local economic development and rural poverty alleviation.

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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Han Jichang, Xie Jiancang, Zhang Yang, 2012. Potential role of feldspathic sandstone as a natural water retaining agent in Mu Us Sandy Land, Northwest China.Chinese Geographical Science, 22(5): 550-555.AbstractThis paper analyzed the water-retention mechanism of feldspathic sandstone (fine- (


Jiang H, 2002. Culture, ecology, and nature’s changing balance: Sandification on Mu Us Sandy land, Inner Mongolia, China. Global desertification: Do humans cause deserts? Berlin: Dahlen University Press, 181-196.

Jin Xiaobin, Shao Yang, Zhang Zhihong, et al., 2017. The evaluation of land consolidation policy in improving agricultural productivity in China.Scientific Reports, 7. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-03026-y.China is presently undergoing rapid economic development and unprecedented urbanization. Concerns over food security have prompted the Chinese government to implement large-scale land consolidation projects. However, no formal evaluation has been conducted on such projects. Thus, effectiveness of land consolidation policy remains uncertain. We obtained detailed geo-spatial information for 5328 land consolidation projects implemented between 2006 and 2010, and used time-series MODIS NDVI (2006–2016) data to assess effectiveness of China’s land consolidation policy in improving agricultural productivity. Our results show that the overall effectiveness of land consolidation in improving agricultural productivity is low, which lies in contrast to optimistic estimates based on regional statistical analysis and theoretical approaches. For projects (n65=65560) implemented in 2006, about 29.5% showed significant (p<650.05) increasing trends of MODIS NDVI after implementation of land consolidation. For 2007–2010, lower percentages (e.g., 25.9% in 2007 and 13.5% in 2010) of projects showed significant increasing trends. Furthermore, we found effectiveness of land consolidation projects displayed clear regional differences and driving factors are inconsistent with policy design. We anticipate our research to be a starting point for a more comprehensive evaluation involving longer time-series and higher spatial resolution data.


Jordan N, Boody G, Broussard W, et al., 2007. Environment-sustainable development of the agricultural bio-economy.Science, 316(5831): 1570-1571.A U.S. farm policy shift to joint production of commodities and ecological services will advance sustainable agriculture.


Karnieli A, Qin Zhihao, Wu Bo, et al., 2014. Spatio-temporal dynamics of land-use and land-cover in the Mu Us Sandy Land, China, using the change vector analysis technique.Remote Sensing, 6(10): 9316-9339.The spatial extent of desertified vs. rehabilitated areas in the Mu Us Sandy Land, China, was explored. The area is characterized by complex landscape changes that were caused by different drivers, either natural or anthropogenic, interacting with each other, and resulting in multiple consequences. Two biophysical variables, NDVI, positively correlated with vegetation cover, and albedo, positively correlated with cover of exposed sands, were computed from a time series of merged NOAA-AVHRR and MODIS images (1981 to 2010). Generally, throughout the study period, NDVI increased and albedo decreased. Improved understanding of spatial and temporal dynamics of these environmental processes was achieved by using the Change Vector Analysis (CVA) technique applied to NDVI and albedo data extracted from four sets of consecutive Landsat images, several years apart. Changes were detected for each time step, as well as over the entire period (1978 to 2007). Four categories of land cover were created egetation, exposed sands, water bodies and wetlands. The CVA direction and magnitude enable detecting and quantifying finer changes compared to separate NDVI or albedo difference/ratio images and result in pixel-based maps of the change. Each of the four categories has a biophysical meaning that was validated in selected hot-spots, employing very high spatial resolution images (e.g., Ikonos). Selection of images, taking into account inter and intra annual variability of rainfall, enables differentiating between short-term conservancies (e.g., drought) and long-term alterations. NDVI and albedo, although comparable to tasseled cap brightness and greenness indices, have the advantage of being computed using reflectance values extracted from various Landsat platforms since the early 1970s. It is shown that, over the entire study period, the majority of the Mu Us Sandy Land area remained unchanged. Part of the area (6%), mainly in the east, was under human-induced rehabilitation processes, in terms of increasing vegetation cover. In other areas (5.1%), bare sands were found to expand to the central-north and the southwest of the area.


Liu Yansui, 2015. Intergrated land research and land resources engineering.Resources Science, 37(1): 1-8. (in Chinese)Land is the solid bases for human life and development and sustainable land use is very important to the socioeconomic development of human society. Promoting comprehensive theoretical and engineering technological innovation for land resources is an important frontier in development transformation, eco-civilization construction, human-land relationship coordination and people's livelihood-land protection in China. Because of rapid industrialization and urbanization, land use, exploitation and management in China face serious problems. The current knowledge, study direction and technologies regarding land resources cannot support China's key land use problems and it is necessary to intensify the study of land resource engineering and application. Here, we discuss the main themes and content around land resource engineering,empirically analyze typical engineering cases, and investigate areal modes and the impact of land resource engineering studies. We found that land resource engineering indicates comprehensive engineering and the application of investigation assessment, planning design, exploitation consolidation and protection utilization of land resources usable for agriculture, forestry, husbandry and other industries. Land resource engineering normally includes engineering technologies for land investigation, assessment, planning, design, exploitation, consolidation, protection and utilization. It is necessary to further develop land resource engineering in China. For example,more attention should be paid to theoretical systems, regional diagnosis, technological methodology, standards, functioning modes, performance assessment and mechanisms.Particularly, the cross-integration of various subjects, public participation, absorbing local knowledge, innovating key engineering technologies, establishing multi-participants networks, and innovating mechanisms of land resources engineering should be intensified when there are problems such as land shortage, degradation and inefficiency.

Liu Yansui, 2018. Introduction to land use and rural sustainability in China.Land Use Policy, 74: 1-4.This themed issue on Land Use Sustainability in China builds on the papers presented at an internaitonal conference (Pre-International Geographical Union 2016 Conference) on “Land Use and Rural Sustainability”, convened by the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences in Xi'an, China on August 17–20, 2016. The conference set out to review the impacts of the transformation of human socio-economic activities on land-use change and associated policy making from both a Chinese and a global perspective. The contributions to this themed issue provide conceptual-theoretical and empirical studies on the topic, covering five themes: key issues of land use and sustainability, urbanization and farmland protection, rural transforamtion and reconstruction, urban-rural interaction in a changing society, and land resources engineering and land use policy. China has undergoneintense socio-economic transformations during recent decades which has affected all sectors of the country’s economy. The rapid urbanization has seriously affected rural areas, leading to the intensification of “rural disease” issues and farmland losses, and the implementation of rural revitalization in China is imperative. In view of this, the papers make a compelling call for more systematic research on land use sustainability and emphasize the challenges for futher research on land use and rural revitalization in China.


Liu Yansui, Fang Fang, Li Yuheng, 2014. Key issues of land use in China and implications for policy making.Land Use Policy, 40: 6-12.The paper aims to comprehensively analyze key issues of current land use in China. It identifies the major land-use problems when China is undergoing rapid urbanization. Then, the paper interprets and assesses the related land-use policies: requisition-compensation balance of arable land, increasing vs. decreasing balance of urban-rural built land, reserved land system within land requisition, rural land consolidation and economical and intensive land use. The paper finds that current policies are targeting specific problems while being implemented in parallel. There is lacking a framework that incorporates all the policies. The paper finally indicates the current land-use challenges and proposes strategic land-use policy system to guide sustainable land use in the future.


Liu Yansui, Li Yuheng, 2017. Revitalize the world’s countryside.Nature, 548(7667): 275-277.


Liu Yansui, Long Hualou, Chen Yufu, et al., 2016. Progress of research on urban-rural transformation and rural development in China in the past decade and future prospects.Journal of Geographical Sciences, 26(8): 1117-1132.Urban-rural transformation and rural development are issues at the forefront of research on the topic of the urban-rural relationship in the field of geography, as well as important practical problems facing China's new urbanization and overall planning of urban and rural development. The Center for Regional Agricultural and Rural Development, part of the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, was established in 2005. The Center has laid solid foundations for integrating research in the areas of agricultural geography and rural development in China over the past decade. The paper aims to review the major achievements in rural geographical research in China during the past decade, analyze innovative developments in relevant theories and methods, and suggest prospects and countermeasures for promoting comprehensive studies of urban-rural transformation and rural geography. The research shows that innovative achievements have been made in rural geography studies of China in the past decade as major national policy development, outputs of result and decision making support; new breakthroughs have been achieved in such major research projects as geographical integrated theory, land remediation projects and technology demonstration projects, new urbanization and urban-rural integration; significant progress has been made in actively expanding the frontiers of rural geography and pushing forward theoretical innovations in land and resource projects; and, with China's development goals of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and achieving modernization in mind, future innovative developments in agricultural and rural geography should aim to make research more strategic, systematic, scientific and security-oriented, with attention given to promoting systematic scientific research on international cooperation and global rural geography.


Long Hualou, 2014. Land consolidation: An indispensable way of spatial restructuring in rural China.Journal of Geographical Sciences, 24(2): 211-225.The implementation of new type industrialization and urbanization and agricultural modernization strategies lacks of a major hand grip and spatial supporting platform, due to long-term existed “dual-track” structure of rural-urban development in China as well as unstable rural development institution and mechanism. It is necessary to restructure rural production, living and ecological space by carrying out land consolidation, so as to establish a new platform for building new countryside and realizing urban-rural integration development in China. This paper develops the concept and connotation of rural spatial restructuring. Basing on the effects analysis of industrialization and urbanization on rural production, living and ecological space, the mechanism of pushing forward rural spatial restructuring by carrying out land consolidation is probed. A conceptualization of the models of rural production, living and ecological spatial restructuring is analyzed combining with agricultural land consolidation, hollowed villages consolidation and industrial and mining land consolidation. Finally, the author argues that a “bottom-up” restructuring strategy accompanied by a few “top-down” elements is helpful for smoothly pushing forward rural spatial restructuring in China. In addition, the optimization and restructuring of rural production, living and ecological space will rely on the innovations of regional engineering technology, policy and mechanism, and mode of rural land consolidation, and more attentions should be paid to rural space, the foundation base and platform for realizing urban-rural integration development.


Ma Yunyan, Zhao Hongyan, Yan Xiao, et al., 2009. Comparing on physic and chemical property of aeolian sandy soil before and after improvement.Journal of Jilin Agricultural Sciences, 34(6): 40-44. (in Chinese)Three level of peat,10 level of sapropel and 3 levels of peat sapropel were respectively added into aeolian sandy soil to plant Chinese cabbage in the pot.The physical and chemical properties of soils with different treatments before and after planting were compared.The results showed that 8-12% peat or 32% sapropel or their mixture has obvious effect on improving of bulk density and pH value.Meanwhile,it obviously increases the content of nutrients and physical clay.This can be proved whether it is before or after experiment.But nitrogen should be added,phosphate and potash can be add a little or no if any crop was planted in the improved soils again.

Ning Songrui, Han Jichang, Hao Qili, 2016. Analysis of the change of cultivated land in Yulin city.Land Development and Engineering Research, 2: 20-27. (in Chinese)

Parr J F, Papendick R I, Meyer SBHRE, 1992. Soil quality: Attributes and relationship to alternative and sustainable agriculture.American Journal of Alternative Agriculture, 7(1): 5-11.


Platteau JP, Hayami Y, Dasgupta P, 1998. Resource endowments and agricultural development: Afica versus Asia. The institutional foundations of East Asian economic development.Palgrave Macmillan UK, 10(6): 810-820.

Qiang Xiaoke, An Zhisheng, Song Yougui, et al., 2017. New Aeolian red clay sequence on the western Chinese Loess Plateau linked to onset of Asian desertification about 25 Ma ago.Science China-Earth Sciences, 54(1): 136-144.

Shi Hui, Shao Mingan, 2000. Soil and water loss from the Loess Plateau in China.Journal of Arid Environments, 45(1): 9-20.The Loess Plateau in north China is famous for its deep loess. Due to the special geographic landscape, soil and climatic conditions, and long history (over 5000 years) of human activity, there has been intensive soil erosion which has resulted in prolonged and great impacts on social and economic development in the region. In this paper the factors causing soil and water loss from the Loess Plateau are discussed. Problems and measures for the comprehensive control of soil and water loss in the Loess Plateau are proposed. The objective of this paper is to provide a guide for the reconstruction of ecological and economic development in the region.


Sivakumar V, Doran I G, Graham J, 2002. Particle orientation and its influence on the mechanical behaviour of isotropically consolidated reconstituted clay.Engineering Geology, 66(3): 197-209.The behaviour of naturally occurring geological materials such as clay and sand depends on many factors. For example, stresses, strains, previous stress history, mineralogy and the depositional environment all contribute in some degree to a characteristic that all natural soils share, namely “structure”. The structure of clay, or more generally, the microstructure of microscopically sized clay mineral particles, is just as important as the many other parameters that are used to quantify the performance of clays. This paper examines the microstructure that results from the particle arrangement brought about during reconstitution in the laboratory and considers its relevance to the resulting stress–strain behaviour. Samples of reconstituted kaolin clay were produced using two different procedures. In the first series of tests, kaolin slurry was simply isotropically compressed in one increment. In the second series, the slurry was first isotropically compressed to a low pressure and then completely remoulded. This was followed by isotropic compression to the same pressure as the other series. Specimens were taken from the two series of samples, reconsolidated at various isotropic pressures, and sheared under undrained conditions. Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) images indicated that the monotonically compressed samples (Series 1) exhibited an anisotropic microstructure that was distinct from the remoulded (Series 2) samples. Significant differences were also found in the consolidation and stress–strain characteristics of the samples produced in the two series.


Wang Huanyuan, Han Jichang, Tong Wei, et al., 2017. Analysis of water and nitrogen use efficiency for maize (Zea mays L.) grown on soft rock and sand compound soil. Journal of the Science of Food & Agriculture, 97: 2553-2560.

Wang Jun, Yan Shenchun, Guo Yiqiang, et al., 2015. The effects of land consolidation on the ecological connectivity based on ecosystem service value: A case study of Da’an land consolidation project in Jilin province.Journal of Geographical Sciences, 25(5): 603-616.


Wang Ni, Xie Jiancang, Han Jichang, 2013. A sand control and development model in sandy land based on mixed experiments of arsenic sandstone and sand: A case study in Mu Us Sandy Land in China.Chinese Geographical Science, 23(6): 700-707.Serious desertification caused by human activity and climate change, in addition to water loss and soil erosion related to arsenic sandstone in the Mu Us Sandy Land, lead to severe scarcity of soil and water resources, which causes worse local agricultural conditions accordingly. Many physical properties of arsenic sandstone is complementary with that of sand, arsenic sandstone is therefore supposed to be blended to enhance water productivity and arability of sandy land. Container experiments are carried out to study the enhancement of water holding capacity of the mixture, the blending ratio of arsenic sandstone and sand, and the proper size of the arsenic sandstone particles, respectively. The results of the experiments show that particle size of 4 cm with a ratio of 1:2 between arsenic sandstone and sand are the proper parameters on blending. Both water content and fertility increase after blending. Water use efficiency in the mixture is 2.7 times higher than that in sand by the water release curves from experiments. Therefore, a new sand control and development model, including arsenic sandstone blending with sand, efficient water irrigation management and reasonable farming system, is put forward to control and develop sandy land so that water-saving agriculture could be developed. Demonstration of potato planting about 153.1 ha in area in the Mu Us Sandy Land in China indicates that water consumption is 3018 m(3)/ha in the whole growth period. It means that about 61% of irrigation water can be saved compared with water use in coarse sand without treatment. Recycle economic mode and positive feedback of sand resource-crop planting-soil resource are constructed, which changes sand into arable soil and make it possible to develop water-saving agriculture on it. The proposed model will be helpful for soil-water resources utilization and management in the Mu Us Sandy Land.


Wang Ni, Xie Jiancang, Han Jichang, et al., 2014. A comprehensive framework on land-water resources development in Mu Us Sandy Land.Land Use Policy, 40(1): 69-73.Land and water resources are two basic factors for sustaining the development of agriculture. The two are scare resources with rapid social economic development gradually, especially in Mu Us Sandy Land (MUSL) with severe desertification. Arsenic sandstone is a special rock type of MUSL with strong water holding capacity, which appropriately makes up the shortage of sand on water and fertilizer losing. Based on it, a comprehensive framework on land-water resources development was proposed including engineering treatment measures, appropriate irrigation management and farming measures after a series of experiments designed for sandy land treated with arsenic sandstone. Results of the experiments showed that both water content and fertility increased after using a 1:2 arsenic sandstone/sand ratio by mixing both together. An area of 151.3ha arable land was newly-increased by applying the framework in Dajihan village sandy land of the MUSL, which created direct economic efficiency of 14.1 million Yuan RMB by tomato planting, and obtained 61% of water saving effect compare to untreated sand. The application of the framework in Dajihan village also got huge social-ecological efficiency such as on soil and water conservation, sand-fixing and forming high quality farmland. The framework helped to completed the process from soil synthesize to agricultural production, then to real soil, which transformed the traditional sandy land treatment to sandy land development, and was proved to be practicable and sustainable in local sandy agriculture.


Wang Rende, Wu Xiaoxu, 2009. New pattern to control Mu Us sandland.Research of Soil and Water Conservation, 16(5): 177-180. (in Chinese)On the basis of deeply analyzing the characteristics of natural environment and previous experience of desertification controlling in Mu Us Sandland,this paper proposes a type of new sandland harnessing pattern which both has ecological and economical benefit.The way of this pattern is firstly pushing down the sand dunes,then mixing loess or other additives in the sand in order to improve the growing condition,thirdly constructing preventing forest and planting vegetation,fourthly irrigating the sand-fixation vegetation in order to improving the living ratio,finally utilizing the field by different ways after the sand has been fixed.This pattern mainly profits for the district of having the groundwater resources,surrounding towns and along the road.With the development of regional economics and the increasing scarcity of land,this model has broad application prospects.

Weber J, Karczewska A, Drozd J, et al., 2007. Agricultural and ecological aspects of a sandy soil as affected by the application of municipal solid waste composts.Soil Biology Biochemistry, 39(6): 1294-1302.We present the results of a plot experiment in which the changes in physical, chemical and physico-chemical properties of a sandy soil were examined after amending the soil with two different composts produced from municipal solid wastes. Triticale (X Triticosecale), cultivated in a 3-y monoculture, was used as a test plant. Both composts differed in their concentrations of heavy metals. Composts were applied non-recurrently in the spring before sowing, at the rates of 18, 36, and 72 t dry matter ha 1. The plots without fertilization, and those fertilized annually with mineral nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), and potassium (K) were used as controls. Soil samples were collected 1 month after compost application, as well as each year after harvesting. Application of both composts improved soil physical properties, associated with increasing content of organic carbon (OC). Statistically significant increases of total porosity, field water capacity and amounts of plant-available water were found only in the short time after compost application. Despite the fact that soil OC content decreased with time, a C:N ratio clearly increased in the third year after compost application, which was explained by a depletion of N reserve. Both composts caused a large increase of plant-available P, K, and magnesium (Mg), which was observed during the entire period of the experiment. Beneficial changes were also observed in soil humic substances composition. These were confirmed by increased humic acids content and humic/fulvic acid ratios. Soil cation exchange capacity and base saturation increased in all plots amended with composts. This effect was still observed 1 year after compost application, while in the third year it remained significant only at the highest compost rates. Compost originating from industrial areas, even if applied in low amounts, caused a significant increase in total concentration of soil heavy metals. This fact did not result, however, in any substantial changes in soil quality with regard to heavy metals content.


Yan Jinming, Xia Fangzhou, Bao H X Helen, 2015. Strategic planning framework for land consolidation in China: A top-level design based on SWOT analysis.Habitat International, 48: 46-54.China is in the midst of an unprecedented and critical period of strategic opportunities for land consolidation. In this process, the country has been confronted with new situations, opportunities, and serious challenges, all of which urgently require top-level design of strategic planning framework for land consolidation. Based on an SWOT analysis, we propose a strategic planning framework for land consolidation at the national level, with a focus on clarification of internal Strength–Weakness strategies and external Opportunity–Threat strategies involved in the land consolidation process. Whereas it can be concluded that land consolidation in China has not yet entered the stage of landscape-ecological pattern, it is on the brink of that stage. Thus, the proposed strategic plan should provide strong protection for continuous promotion of land consolidation through the application of a top-down and comprehensive design considering agriculture production, livelihood and ecology as comprehensive targets. Meanwhile, it should also unswervingly adhere to the “red line,” optimize the layout of urban and rural land use and propel a new landscape-ecological pattern of land consolidation. In this way, strategy-oriented support can be provided to improve land consolidation implementation and ensure that it is stable, coordinated and effective.


Yan Jinming, Xia Fangzhou, Li Qiang, 2012. Top strategy design of comprehensive land consolidation in China.Transactions of the Chinese Society of Agricultural Engineering, 28(14): 1-9.At present,the career of China's land consolidation is in unprecedented strategic opportunity period.Now the development of land consolidation is facing a totally new situation,new opportunities,but also many serious challenges,which needs land consolidation strategy's top-level design guidelines.Based on the analysis of the strengths,weaknesses,opportunities and threats of the comprehensive land consolidation,the strategic context of comprehensive land consolidation in China was revealed in this study.According to the comprehensive land consolidation strategy design ideas and principles,the national level comprehensive land consolidation strategic positioning was put forward,strategic goals and tasks of the comprehensive land consolidation were cleared,the overall design concept of the strategic model of urban-rural and rational co-ordinate and the future comprehensive land consolidation strategy were established,the comprehensive land consolidation strategy safeguard mechanism was designed.So reasonable development of comprehensive land consolidation strategy and the proper implementation can be ensured from the macro level,and the bottleneck of social and economic development resources can be solved,which provide the strategic orientation support for the improvement of the prospectivity,coordination,stability and efficiency of comprehensive land consolidation pertinency.


Yang Meihuan, Cao Mingming, Zhu Zhimei, et al., 2010. Soil physical and chemical properties in the process of desertification on the southeastern edge of Mu Us sandy land.Bulletin of Soil and Water Conservation, 30(2): 169-174. (in Chinese)By the methodology of "The Temporal for The Spatial" ,the changes of soil physical and chemical properties on the southeastern edge of Mu Us sandy land were studied. Results showed that soil physical and chemical properties changed regularly in the process of desertification. With the increased degree of desertification,the contents of soil clay,soil water,organic matter,organic carbon,and total nitrogen decreased,while the content of soil sand,soil bulk density,and C/N increased. With the increased depth,the content of soil water and soil bulk density increased and the contents of organic matter,organic carbon,and total nitrogen decreased,while C/N increased firstly and decreased later. Results of correlation analysis showed that the correlations of soil bulk density or C/N ratio with other indicators were negative,while the correlations of other indicators were positive. The negative correlations of soil bulk density with the content of organic matter and total nitrogen were significant at the level of P0.01 and so was the positive correlation between the content of organic matter and total nitrogen. The correlations of the content of soil clay with soil water,soil bulk density,the content of organic matter,and total nitrogen were significant at the level of P0.05 and so were the correlations of soil water with soil bulk density,the content of organic matter,and total nitrogen. Soil quality was reduced and there were close correlations in soil physical and chemical properties in the process of desertification.


Zhang Weifeng, Cao Guoxin, Li Xiaolin, et al., 2016. Closing yield gaps in China by empowering smallholder farmers.Nature, 537(7622): 671-674.Sustainably feeding the world’s growing population is a challenge, and closing yield gaps (that is, differences between farmers’ yields and what are attainable for a given region) is a vital strategy to address this challenge. The magnitude of yield gaps is particularly large in developing countries where smallholder farming dominates the agricultural landscape. Many factors and constraints interact to limit yields, and progress in problem-solving to bring about changes at the ground level is rare. Here we present an innovative approach for enabling smallholders to achieve yield and economic gains sustainably via the Science and Technology Backyard (STB) platform. STB involves agricultural scientists living in villages among farmers, advancing participatory innovation and technology transfer, and garnering public and private support. We identified multifaceted yield-limiting factors involving agronomic, infrastructural, and socioeconomic conditions. When these limitations and farmers’ concerns were addressed, the farmers adopted recommended management practices, thereby improving production outcomes. In one region in China, the five-year average yield increased from 67.9% of the attainable level to 97.0% among 71 leading farmers, and from 62.8% to 79.6% countywide (93,074 households); this was accompanied by resource and economic benefits.


Zhu Zhenda, Wu Zheng, Liu Shu et al., 1980. An Outline on Chinese Desert. Beijing: Science Press. (in Chinese)