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Expert helps village crops flourish

By ZHAO RUIXUE in Gaotang, Shandong | China Daily | Updated: 2023-12-11 09:36
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Du Lizhi (right) helps farmers improve vegetable production in a greenhouse in Gaotang county, Shandong province. CHINA DAILY

From monitoring winter wheat to advising farmers on crop health, Du Lizhi, an agricultural expert from Shandong province's Gaotang county, maintains a bustling routine to ensure the prosperity of her native farmlands.

"The wheat is currently growing well, but some of the faster-growing wheat needs to be suppressed before the deep winter to ensure it can stay well throughout the winter," said Du, 59.

To farmers in Gaotang, Du is indeed an expert. Whether it be wheat, corn, vegetables or fruits, she possesses a deep understanding of crop growth and can solve most related problems.

Inside a workstation showcasing agricultural techniques and various crop samples, Du showed visitors a type of sorghum.

"This grain is suitable for planting in saline-alkali soil in our county," she said.

She also demonstrated the benefits of intercropping corn and peanuts, which can increase yields. Du's expertise was developed over a period of 38 years, during which she worked at the grassroots level to learn and promote agricultural techniques after graduating from an agricultural school in 1985.

"To truly engage in agricultural work, it is essential to be close to farmers and farmland," she said, explaining why she chose to work at her hometown's agricultural technology station.

Her first experimental site was her own cotton field. During a year when the town was plagued by a cotton bollworm outbreak, Du used the knowledge she gained in school to curb the outbreak by trapping the insects and spraying insecticides. As a result, her cotton yield increased, and her neighbors began seeking her advice.

Following Du's guidance, the entire village had a successful cotton harvest the following year. Encouraged by this initial triumph, she decided to dedicate her life to agricultural work.

At first, she focused on the production and cultivation of grain and cotton. However, in 1992, an incident prompted her to expand her expertise. A greenhouse farmer from a neighboring village came to her with a cucumber seedling that had yellowing leaves. But Du had little knowledge of vegetable cultivation techniques at the time and was unable to assist the farmer.

Saddened by the farmer's disappointment, Du resolved to learn about vegetable growing. In addition to reading books about techniques, she visited greenhouses to do field research, braving harsh weather conditions and working late nights.

Whenever she heard about problems with crops, be they grain, cotton or vegetable, she would rush to the scene to offer support.

Over the past 38 years, Du has traveled to over 600 villages in the county and has written more than 70 agricultural journals. She has become a well-rounded authority on agricultural matters.

In 2018, the county established a workstation for Du to disseminate agricultural techniques and train more agricultural experts.

Thanks to the station, grain production in Ershilipu village has significantly increased. Yields of wheat have risen from a maximum of 4.5 metric tons per hectare to 7.5 tons per hectare, while corn yields have risen from 7.5 tons per hectare to 12 tons.

Du has also been conducting experiments with pesticides for disease and pest control, resulting in the development of highly effective programs.

"Agricultural techniques such as utilizing disease-resistant varieties can reduce the need for pesticides," she said. "I will continue promoting rural agricultural development and contributing to rural vitalization."

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