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Growing millet makes sense for Jingxian farmers

By ZHANG YU in Shijiazhuang | China Daily | Updated: 2022-09-22 10:11
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A farmer drives harvester to reap millet in Jingxian county, Hebei province, earlier this month. [Photo/CHINA DAILY]

While many farmers this year worry about having enough water to irrigate their crops, those in Jingxian county, Hebei province, are worry-free because their crop of choice, millet, is more drought resistant.

A total of 650 hectares of millet is planted across the county.

Liu Shulin, a farmer in Houliumingfu town, planted millet on over 40 hectares this year.

"The millet has grown well because there is enough rain, which unlike other crops is all it needs, there's no need for extra irrigation," Liu said, adding that he expects to harvest 5,250 kilograms of millet per hectare and sell it for about 25,500 yuan ($3,600).

"Seeing the harvesters shuttle back and forth on my land and the golden grain pour down from the conveyor of the harvester, I can't tell you how happy I am," he said.

After switching to growing millet, Liu's net income per year increased by about 20,000 yuan compared to the corn and wheat he used to grow.

The millet has not only boosted his profit but is also less labor-intensive.

"I'm very happy when the rain comes. I don't have to water the millet myself and so it is a great relief," he said.

With higher income and lower costs, the farmer said he intends to increase his millet planting to 53 hectares next year.

According to Li Xin, a senior agronomist at the county's bureau of agriculture and rural affairs, millet thrives in rain and does not require irrigation.

"Compared with traditional crops such as wheat and corn, millet can save 3,300 cubic meters of water per hectare on average," he said.

The county used to face issues related to the over-abstraction of groundwater, for which it figured out a way to grow drought resistant and water-saving crops, including millet.

According to Li, growers plant millet from early May to mid-July, and harvest it from early September to October.

"If we are met with especially dry years, one-time irrigation could meet the needs for the millet to grow," Li said.

Along with Houliumingfu town, another two towns in the county are growing the drought-resistant crop.

More than 1,600 households in 18 villages have grown millet this year in Jingxian. It is expected that they will yield about 3.9 million kg of millet by the end of October, according to the bureau.

There are four cooperatives in the county for purchasing millet at a relatively higher price than the market, which is then sold to food dealers after processing it into millet or millet powder.

The cooperatives also provide fertilizers and guidance in terms of planting techniques for millet growers, ensuring they harvest high-quality crops.

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