Pursuing sustainable productivity with millions of smallholder farmers ($) (Nature)

Improving crop productivity of rural areas while addressing pollution problems is a challenge that not only depends on scientific studies and technology but also requires an effective dialog with the smallholder farming communities. This month, Nature published the results of a ten-year Chinese agricultural program that involved 1,152 scientists and graduate students, thousands of agricultural specialists and 20.9 million farmers. The program was structured in three phases: 1) field trials across several Chinese agroecological zones in order to establish guidelines of integrated soil–crop system management (ISSM) for rice, wheat and maize; 2) engagement of the local farmers for a 10-year trial (2005-2015); 3) collection and evaluation of the results. Point 2 included, among others: workshops, distribution of high quality seeds and fertilizers and the active participation of the local farmers in the implementation of the recommended agricultural improvements. The collected data showed an average yield increase of around 11%, around 15% reduction in the use of fertilizers and a 7.7% reduction in CO2 production in comparison to areas not involved in the study. (Summary by Elisa Dell’Aglio) Nature 10.1038/nature25785