China has reportedly developed a technology that is able to transform desert lands into arable soil that could grow crops and natural vegetation.
According to CGTN, Chinese scientists have achieved success in growing crops in areas with less than ideal conditions caused by lack of rain and extremely hot temperatures. The huge breakthrough was recently presented at the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) on September 15 in the Chinese desert city of Ordos, where over 100 countries in attendance committed to setting national timelines to stop desertification by 2030, Xinhua reports.
The technology behind the Chinese innovation was developed by researchers at Chongqing Jiaotong University. The scientists developed a paste made of a substance found in plant cell walls that, when mixed with sand, is able to retain water, nutrients, and air.
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One particular location where the plants have been thriving is in a desert in North China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
“According to our calculation, there are over 70 kinds of crops growing here. Many are not planted by us but they just grow themselves,” Chongqing Jiaotong University Associate Professor Zhao Chaohua was quoted as saying.
Over the course of six months, over 200 hectares of sand is being turned into plantations yielding corn, tomatoes, sorghum, and sunflowers. A reforestation project is also currently in the works, which is set to reforest 50% of degraded desert land in three years.
“The costs of artificial materials and machines for transforming sand into soil is lower compared with controlled environmental agriculture and reclamation,” Chongqing Jiaotong University professor Yang Qingguo said.
Researchers are looking into expanding their project this fall, with a plan to transform another 200 hectares of desert. In the next few years, the scientists are confident that they can turn over 13,000 hectares more into fertile ground.
Chinese forestry officials have stated that the area of desertified land in the country has so far been dropping by an annual average of more than 2,400 square kilometers.