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China Strives to Build Agricultural Sci-tech Innovation System

According to a development guideline of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) for the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025), China is striving to establish a modern agricultural science and technology innovation system by 2025.

The CAAS aims to achieve breakthroughs that can help improve grain yield, self-sufficiency of oil-bearing crops such as soybeans, and the utilisation rate of irrigation water, chemical fertilizers and pesticides. China also needs self-developed technologies to reduce dependence on importing certain crops, livestock and poultry varieties.

The guideline focuses on major fields such as seeds, cultivated land, agricultural machinery and bio-safety. It calls for boosting the construction of new key laboratories, a grain crop science centre, a molecular design breeding centre, a national crop germplasm resource bank, livestock and poultry bank and an agricultural microorganism bank.

China basically stands on its own feet in agricultural science and technology but lags behind some leading developed countries. China still lacks significant achievements in areas of modern biotechnology, such as genome-wide selection, gene editing and synthetic biology, as well as in emerging information-technology fields, such as the Internet of Things, big data, blockchain and Artificial Intelligence (AI) and their application in agriculture.

The CAAS will focus on seeds, cultivated land, agricultural machinery and equipment, and agricultural biosafety and promote the trial of transgenic industrialisation, aiming to support high-quality development with high-quality science and technology.

– Wu Kongming, CAAS President

In addition, the country’s grain-crop yield is at a relatively low level, so it is urgent to advance technical research on increasing yields. Wu called for efforts to build a national agricultural science and technology innovation centre, strengthen original and independent innovation, explore new frontier fields, and achieve world-class scientific discoveries and major breakthroughs in key technologies.

Wu also stressed strengthening international cooperation, including the Belt and Road cooperation, in agricultural science and technology. The CAAS will accelerate international cooperation in disease prevention and control in both animals and plants and biotechnology.

According to Statista around 25% of China´s workforce are in agriculture, but the sector is based largely on small, family-owned farms, and it is in many cases still quite old fashioned. In part due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the global food shortage is growing, and China has for years known that there will be a battle of resources in the future to feed the world´s largest nation. One of the answers that are also backed by the national government is using tech to optimise output.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is at the top of the national agenda, however mostly applied in sectors such as finance, healthcare and smart city solutions. A report made it clear that farming was one of the industries left furthest behind in smart technologies, but also one of the areas with the biggest potential to upgrade.

China will improve efforts to create higher yields and higher quality production of major food crop varieties, and self-sufficiency in major livestock and poultry varieties by 2030 by deploying technology, as reported by OpenGov Asia. China released an action plan to promote the national seed industry late last month in Sanya, South China’s Hainan province, where the Nanfan Scientific and Research Breeding Base is located.

The plan lays out the necessary theoretical, scientific and technological developments for the industry to improve seed varieties and grain yields, and ensure the protection of national germplasm resources. Since the beginning of the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020), China’s ability to innovate in breeding technology has continued to rise. However, China is still in the process of developing breeding theories and key technologies.

By 2030, the self-sufficiency rate of vegetable varieties, such as broccoli, carrots and spinach, will rise from the current 10% to more than 50%. Moreover, a platform will be built to boost seed industry technology, integrating basic research, technological innovation, variety creation, big data, and industry incubation.

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