South China Sea: is this vegetable patch the answer to the Chinese navy’s food supply problem?
- Military says it has harvested hundreds of kilograms of produce from a stretch of beach on Woody Island by mixing the sand with a cellulose solution
- The technique is cheap and easy to apply, and might also be used to revegetate other areas in the contested waters, researcher says
In a report posted on its official microblog account on the weekend, the navy said it had harvested more than 750kg (1,650lbs) of vegetables from a 2,000 square metre (half an acre) sandy plot on Woody Island, also known as Yongxing Island in China, in the disputed Paracels.
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But it has been a challenge to supply those troops with provisions such as fresh food and water because of the vast distances involved.
“This signals China has made initial success in growing vegetables on beaches in the Paracel Islands,” the report said, adding the technique could help solve vegetable shortages confronting the troops stationed in the South China Sea.
To grow the crop, the troops mixed a cellulose solution with the sand, building on research carried out in Chongqing and Inner Mongolia by scientists at Chongqing Jiaotong University, the report said.
One of the university researchers, Zhao Chaohua, was quoted as saying that the technique was cheap and easy to apply.
“If this can be applied to other places, it can not only solve the vegetable shortage problem, but also help vegetate islands and shoals [in the South China Sea],” Zhao said.
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Ma Shaoshuai, a soldier stationed on the island, said that at first he did not think the project would bear fruit.
“In the beginning, I had no confidence in this experiment … I’d never heard of planting vegetables in sand,” Ma was quoted as saying.
Qiu Hua, a veteran soldier who has been on the island for two decades, said the plot could yield five or six harvests a year.
“We planted the seeds on April 4 and harvested on May 12. It was so fast,” Qiu said.
The military has sought to overcome food supply problems in other ways, including a large refrigerator that can keep vegetables fresh for two months during long maritime surveys.
It also set aside more than 1 billion yuan in its 2011-2015 plan to increase vegetable production in more than 400 brigades and legions, and built more than 2,000 storehouses in northern China and Tibet to keep vegetables fresh in cold weather.