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Chinese farmers enthusiastic about growing soybeans


Snow began to thaw in late April in Heihe in China's northeasternmost province of Heilongjiang. Soybean grower Li Fuqiang wasted no time to start spring ploughing at full steam.

In the following half month, Li and his team in a local agricultural cooperative would race against time, working about 15 hours a day, to plant about 10,666.7 hectares of soybeans.

Heilongjiang is known as China's grain barn. Heihe alone boasts more than 1.3 million hectares of soybean producing area. The city's soybean output in 2023 registered 2.6 billion kilograms to sustain its first rank in the country, accounting for one seventh of the country's total.

Li and his four partners set up the agricultural cooperative in 2012 to contract the agricultural fields owned by over 1,200 rural households for soybean growing. The incorporative farm has realized whole-process mechanized farming from spring sowing to autumn harvest.

Such an approach of modernized and large-scale soybean farming has been commended by the local authorities, which conferred the title "Soybean King" to Li.

Heilongjiang is known as China's grain barn. /CFP
Heilongjiang is known as China's grain barn. /CFP

Heilongjiang is known as China's grain barn. /CFP

With the Chinese people's rising demand for healthy food, soybeans with rich contents of isoflavones and lecithin have become more and more welcomed as nutritious food.

In 2023, China imported 160 million tonnes of grain, of which soybeans account for the lion's share. Li Guoxiang, a researcher at the Rural Development Institute under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that China's soybean supply is highly dependent on imports, and it is of great importance to make expanding soybean planting a policy priority.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, China will continue to expand the soybean planting area to above 10 million hectares this year. The government will support the northeast region to develop the whole industrial chain of soybean processing and soybean-related agricultural products.

Research institutes, such as the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, have been motivated to assist the supply of high quality soybean varieties.

The Heilongjiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences will introduce a new gene-edited soybean variety to the market this year. Ren Honglei, an associate researcher of the academy, said the new strain has proved to have a yield of 4,500 kilograms per hectare with the seed's protein content exceeding 42 percent and oil content exceeding 23 percent.

The city of Heihe has also been actively developing soybean's extended industries, from soybean-flavored food such as ice cream, pasta, tempeh, vegetarian meat and drinks to soybean-contained pharmaceutical, textile and fine chemical products. 

(Cover image via CFP)

Source(s): Xinhua News Agency
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