Seeds of hope may be gone with the wind
Updated: 2012-03-22 08:02
By He Na and Han Junhong in Jilin (China Daily)
Nature can be a farmer's best friend or worst enemy and is always unpredictable, report He Na and Han Junhong in Jilin province.
Seeds are high on the agenda for farmers this year. In July, unusually strong winds left a trail of destruction in fields across Northeast China's Jilin province, one of the country's major corn-producing bases, flattening a large area of cornstalks.
July and August are the important growing periods for corn. However, affected by the winds, the harvest in some regions declined markedly last year, resulting in heavy losses for many farmers. Han Zong-qing, 65, who lives in Dongling village, Fate town, Shulan city, is one of them.
"I haven't seen a wind like that before. It was like a scene when the monsters come in a TV adaptation of Journey to the West (a classic Chinese legend where the arrival of monsters is always presaged by high winds). One-third of the corn I grew was beaten down. I only harvested 14,500 kilograms last year, which was 4,000 kg less than in 2010," he complained.
"This year's corn price is much higher than before and recently jumped to 2.1 yuan ($0.33) per kg from 1.6 yuan last year. The wind blew more than 4,000 yuan from my pocket. I could have bought plenty of things with that money," said Han.
Many of his fellow villagers also witnessed a decline in crop yields. When they inspected the fields, they discovered that most of the damaged corn belonged to one specific variety, Pioneer 335, a hybrid produced by the world's largest corn seed company, Pioneer Hi-Bred.
"I've planted it for five years, but I didn't know it was so vulnerable to wind. What seeds should I choose this year? We've been thinking about that question since autumn, but still haven't made a decision," said Han, sitting on his traditional brick-heated bed.
Farmers examine corn seeds at "Seed Street" in Yushu city, Jilin province, where about 200 seed companies have their businesses. He Na / China Daily