How special soil observatories in China are helping to create more sustainable agriculture

Paul Hallett, Gan Lin Zhang, Larissa A Naylor, Weikei Wang

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


All over the world, agriculture is threatened by degraded soils. Stripped of carbon from intensive farming, soils erode more easily, host fewer microbes and hold less water and nutrients. Fertilisers and pesticides applied to improve crop yields can leach beneath the soil and pollute the surrounding environment.

Soil degradation is a particularly big problem in China, where enormous pressure on natural resources from industrial-scale farming is accelerating the rate of soil erosion.

Looking for ways to make agriculture more sustainable can be difficult because the subject is so vastly complex, and crop and livestock productivity is often at odds with environmental sustainability. The effects of farming may stretch far beyond the topsoil studied by agricultural scientists. Adopting good sustainability practices requires farmers to buy into the idea, so an appreciation of their expertise and views is important.
Original languageEnglish
Specialist publicationThe Conversation
PublisherThe Conversation UK
Publication statusPublished - 3 Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

Paul Hallett receives funding from UK Research and Innovation.

Ganlin Zhang receives funding from the National Science Foundation of China; the Chinese Academy of Sciences; the European Commission; and the Ministry of Science and Technology of China.

Larissa A. Naylor receives funding from UK Research and Innovation.

Weikai Wang does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


  • agriculture
  • soil
  • China
  • farming
  • soil erosion
  • soil degradation
  • fertilisers
  • nitrogen fertiliser


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