Opportunistic Market-Driven Regional Shifts of Cropping Practices Reduce Food Production Capacity of China


Journal: 《Earth's Future》, 6(4) · March 2018

Cite as: Yuan, W., Liu, S., Liu, W., Zhao, S., Dong, W., Tao, F., et al. (2018). Opportunistic market-driven regional shifts of cropping practices reduce food production capacity of China. Earth’s Future, 6, 634–642. https://doi.org/10.1002/

Abstract:China is facing the challenge of feeding a growing population with the declining cropland and increasing shortage of water resources under the changing climate. This study identified that the opportunistic profit‐driven shifts of planting areas and crop species composition have strongly reduced the food production capacity of China. First, the regional cultivation patterns of major crops in China have substantially shifted during the past five decades. Southeast and South China, the regions with abundant water resources and fewer natural disasters, have lost large planting areas of cropland in order to pursue industry and commerce. Meanwhile, Northeast and Northwest China, the regions with low water resources and frequent natural disasters, have witnessed increases in planting areas. These macroshifts have reduced the national food production by 1.02% per year. The lost grain production would have been enough to feed 13 million people. Second, the spatial shifts have been accompanied by major changes in crop species composition, with substantial increases in planting area and production of maize, due to its low water consumption and high economic returns. Consequently, the stockpile of maize in China has accounted for more than half of global stockpile, and the stock to use ratio of maize in China has exceeded the reliable level. Market‐driven regional shifts of cropping practices have resulted in larger irrigation requirements and aggravated environmental stresses. Our results highlighted the need for Chinese food policies to consider the spatial shifts in cultivation, and the planting crop compositions limited by regional water resources and climate change. Substantial shifts in the regional cultivation patterns have occurred in China Macroshifts have reduced food production by 1.02% nationally each year The spatial shifts were accompanied by major changes in crop species composition