Potato integration into rice farming


03 February 2022
Rotations can bring economic and ecological benefits according to research

A RECENT article published by a team of CIP scientists finds that integrating potato into rice farming systems in southern China can yield some benefits for smallholder farmers, but also brings challenges that must be anticipated for achieving optimal yields.  

According to the article’s lead author, Lao Yu, a research assistant at China’s High Latitude Crops Institute, rotating rice and potato crops in paddies generates both economic and ecological benefits. “Rice-potato crop rotation systems play an important role in alleviating poverty in rural China, and in contributing to sustainable agriculture,” she said. 

Rice may be the foundation of the Chinese diet, but as Yu and co-authors report, potato has become increasingly popular over the past 15 years, as the government promoted the crop’s cultivation and chefs introduced tubers into a growing array of dishes. Between 2007 and 2019 alone, per capita potato consumption doubled in China. 

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According to Xiaoping Lu, the International Potato Center (CIP) Deputy Director General for the CIP-China Center for Asia-Pacific (CCCAP), and one of the study’s authors, about half of China’s potatoes are grown in the north, where long summer days facilitate high production. However, over the past two decades, farmers in southern provinces have increasingly grown tubers in rice paddies during dry winter months.  

Lu noted that multi-cropping is widely practiced in China, but the use of potato as a winter crop in rice paddies began in Guangdong Province, in the 1980s, in response to rising demand for potatoes in nearby Hong Kong. As potato consumption grew on the Chinese mainland, farmers in the southern provinces of Yunnan and Sichuan followed suit, and those three provinces now produce about a quarter of the country’s potatoes. 

Source and photo: CIP

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