As reported by China News Weekly on June 15, northeastern black soil was always considered one of the most fertile soil types in the world. It accounts for a quarter of China’s total grain output with one-fifth of the country’s arable land.
The organic matter content of black soil can reach ten times that of ordinary soil, so the yield from black soil is much higher. It is also known as “the giant panda of the cultivated land.”
However, it has been degrading, risking national food security and the jobs of 1.4 million people.
The black soil in Northeast China mainly includes parts of Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning, and eastern Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, with an area of 538 million mu (88.6 million acres) of arable land.
According to the “White Paper on Black Soil in Northeast China,” in the past 60 years, the content of soil organic matter in the cultivated layer of black soil has dropped by one-third to 50% in some areas.
According to the long-term positioning test of the Hailun Agricultural Ecological Experiment Station of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the grain production capacity of the black soil in Northeast China has dropped by 20% compared to that of the pre-cultivation period.
Liu Jie, dean of the Heilongjiang Black Soil Conservation and Utilization Research Institute, said that the root cause of black soil degradation is poor farming methods. The nutrients of the soil’s organic matter taken away in farming practices have not been replenished.
Soil erosion is an important reason for the thinning of the black soil layer. According to the 2019 data from the China Soil and Water Conservation Bulletin, the soil erosion area of black soil in Northeast China reached 218,700 square kilometers, accounting for 20.11% of the total black soil area.
In July 2020, Xi Jinping inspected Jilin and suggested that effective measures should be taken to protect and make good use of the black soil—”the giant panda of arable land.”
The black soil in northeastern China began to deteriorate 20 years ago, and the so-called “Black Soil Defense War” failed to prevent the black soil from becoming thinner and harder. Therefore, Chinese media are sounding the alarm that “black soil is in danger.”