IT boosts China's modern agriculture
Computers, software and the Internet are no longer novelties to many Chinese farmers, as their dream for agricultural modernization has come true in many regions, from the suburbs of Beijing and Tianjin to the northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
More than 100 agriculture information officials and specialists witnessed the successful application of information technology in agriculture Thursday at a branch of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps in the southern part of the autonomous region, near the Taklimakan Desert, the world's second largest.
The corps has employed state-of-the-art information technology in seeding, irrigation and data collection for soil property analysis.
Gao Zuoyu, an official in charge of information work with the Ministry of Agriculture, praised the corps as "successful" and " exemplary" in its IT application in agricultural production.
He said information technology has become a new driving force in the allocation of agricultural resources, upgrading traditional agriculture and improvement of productivity since China first proposed "information agriculture" 10 years ago.
In 1995, the Ministry of Agriculture began building a national agricultural database and application systems for macro-regulation and control, as well as forecasts of natural calamities, plant diseases, pests, sales of farm produce and market demands.
"Computerized agriculture," an intelligent agricultural information project launched by the Ministry of Science and Technology in 1996, has covered more than 3 million hectares of farmland nationwide, including 14 provinces and cities in the underdeveloped western region.
Rural communication has topped the agenda of the State Council, China's cabinet, this year. At a working conference on agricultural information work in May, China decided to build five information service systems dedicated to agricultural monitoring and early-warning. The country will also extend a national agricultural information service network into rural counties and villages.
Meanwhile, government administrations at all levels have set up agricultural information service departments to collect data on agricultural production, pricing, natural calamities, plant diseases, pests and the farmers' incomes.
An official website at www.agri.gov.cn has integrated more than 20 other professional websites and opened an online exposition in June 2004 for domestic growers and processors to sell their products online. The virtual fair has drawn more than 1,400 agricultural firms to date.
"Promotion and application of information technology is the first step toward agricultural modernization," said Guo Zuoyu, who saw hope for China's agricultural sector to prosper with modern means of production.
But Guo said regional disparity still exists in agricultural information development. "'Digital agriculture' is already blooming at the Xinjiang Corps and some developed regions such as Beijing, Tianjin and Heilongjiang, but it is yet to gain ground in the underdeveloped regions," he said.
China's IT sector has become one of the country's leading industries, with last year's sales income reaching US$226.5 billion. China has moved into second place in the world's, behind only to the United States, in its IT scale.