Mulching film improves cotton yields in Xinjiang
A cotton farmer lays mulching film in a field in Bohu county, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, in April. [Photo by Nian Lei/Xinhua]
After completing their spring sowing, cotton farmers in Shawan city, in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, are busy laying mulching film in the fields.
"Last year's trial run of mulch farming was significantly beneficial, keeping higher soil temperatures for cotton growing, controlling weeds and conserving soil moisture," said Han Bo, head of an agricultural machinery cooperative in the city.
The cotton yield increased by 450 to 750 kilograms per hectare, Han said.
Local authorities in the cotton-producing area in the Tianshan Mountains have been promoting farming techniques that conserve water through the use of mulching film.
Han said they now use mulching film 4.4 meters wide to cover 12 rows of cotton seeds, instead of the more common way of using film 2.05 meters wide to cover six rows.
The new plastic film is 0.013 millimeters thick and has a recovery rate of over 90 percent, which is a more environmentally friendly way of limiting "white (plastic) pollution", Han said.
According to monitoring by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, modern agricultural machinery is widely used in cotton farming in Xinjiang.
To the north of the Tianshan Mountains, agricultural machinery is used in major cotton-producing areas such as the Bortala Mongolian autonomous prefecture, Huyanghe city, Shihezi city and Shawan.
Meanwhile, from the west and north of the Tarim Basin to the south of the mountains, mechanization is also gaining momentum. "Thanks to the application of the Beidou Navigation Satellite System, my workload is much lighter than in previous years," said Remtla Tokhtniaz, a machinery operator in Tuanjie village, located in Bagawat township, Yarkant county in southern Xinjiang.
It used to take six days to sow about 33 hectares of land, he said, "but now, with the satellite navigation system to assist in driving, we can finish sowing and laying mulching film and drip irrigation in just three days".
According to Xinjiang's Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, the plowing and sowing of cotton are entirely mechanized, and the harvesting rate is over 80 percent.
A total of 61 counties and cities as well as 110 production and construction groups plant cotton in Xinjiang, where nearly half the local farmers are engaged in cotton production.
The crop accounts for 30 percent of the net income of farmers in Xinjiang, China's largest