Science - April 5, 2016

Chinese rivers full of phosphate and nitrogen

Albert Sikkema

Chinese rivers contain alarming quantities of nitrogen and phosphate thanks to Chinese agricultural policy, writes PhD candidate Maryna Strokal of Environmental Systems Analysis and her Chinese and Wageningen colleagues in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

Changes to Chinese agriculture in the past few decades have led to a livestock sector which is disconnected from crop production, observe the researchers. This means that manure produced on livestock farms does not get used to improve the fertility of arable farmland. In 2000 between 30 and 70 percent of all animal manure was dumped in rivers, states Strokal. By comparison, this figure was 5 percent in 1970. Meanwhile the number of livestock animals in China has doubled in those 30 years.

The result of these agricultural developments is that the concentration of nitrogen and phosphate in Chinese rivers has gone up by a factor of between 2 and 45 in the space of 30 years. Although there is growing concern about this environmental pollution in China, the dumping of manure straight into the rivers could increase in the coming years, warns Strokal. She advises the Chinese government to take action promptly to recycle more manure from livestock in horticulture and agriculture.

Re:actions 2

  • Ida Krogsgaard Svendsen

    WOW, actions are rely needed. I am thinking the problem will be partly solved it the government will transport the manure from the farms to the arable farmland where it is needed. I do not think we can blame the farmers, who probably do not have the money to transport the manure and for this reason the only option is to dump it in a river.

  • Chris Aru

    The best way forward would be to recycle manure from the livestock on land, use it to increase crop yields and fodder for animals. This will avoid eutrophication in the water bodies and therefore make the water cleaner that it is today.


resource_wageningenur_nl_forum_reactions_wrapper for object 43 of type wm_language nl_gx_webmanager_cms_core_implementation_languageimpl 1

  • Benny D

    Het tempo waaraan we de wereld om zeep helpen gaat nu enorm rap vroeg of laat gaat er iets verkeerd dat een reactie op reactie zal geven de natuur zal zichzelf uitschakelen wetende dat het zichzelf wel zal herstellen dit nadat de vervuiler ( wij dus ) reeds lang zal uitgestorven zijn ..