Scope and strategies for sustainable intensification of potato production in Northern China

Wang, Na; Reidsma, Pytrik; Ittersum, Martin K. van


Potato (Solanum tuberosum) is an important staple crop in China, however, potato yields are low, and thus a general aim is to produce more crop with fewer resources and minimal environmental effects. This study aimed to assess the relationships between yield, resource use efficiencies, and environmental performance of potato production in China. Three major potato production regions (Inner Mongolia, Gansu, and Heilongjiang) were surveyed. The current production performance was evaluated, and the scope for improvement was assessed based on a lower and upper target for yield (financial breakeven point and 85% of the potential yield, respectively), water productivity (upper target is 85% of the potential water productivity), nitrogen use efficiency (50 and 90%) and nitrogen surplus (upper target is 80 kg ha−1). Long-term situations were evaluated to identify the target values of nitrogen use efficiency and nitrogen surplus based on currently available technologies. The results indicate that in the short-term nitrogen fertilizer input can be reduced by allowing for soil nitrogen mining to improve the nitrogen use efficiency and reduce nitrogen surplus. Water productivity can be increased by enhancing yield, and water surplus can be reduced by more efficient management of irrigation and rainfall water. In the long-term, with good agronomy, we assess it is feasible to improve yield (from 33–43 to 46–57 t FM ha−1), improve nitrogen use efficiency (to 84%), and reduce nitrogen surplus (from 50–156 to 16–34 kg N ha−1) simultaneously. The latter should be validated experimentally.