PhD project by Yue Wang. To develop a sustainable dairy system in China, crop and animal production need to be recoupled and nutrients need to be restored. The aim of this study is to improve the circularity of N, P and C flows and efficiently recouple dairy farming and crop production.
Milk production in China has greatly increased over the last few years. This has led to intensification and specialization of dairy farms in many regions of China, an increased reliance on the import of feed, and decoupling of previously linked crop and dairy production. As dairy farmers face difficulties to return their animal manure to fields, and the efficiency of resource use is low, significant amounts of valuable elements, such as nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P), are lost to the environment. These losses contribute to environmental issues like eutrophication and global warming. To develop a sustainable dairy system in China, crop and dairy production need to be recoupled and nutrient cycling needs to be restored.
The aim of this study, therefore, is to improve nutrient management in the Chinese dairy sector and efficiently recouple dairy and crop production. While doing so, attention is also paid to the role of dairy sector within the entire food system. To reach this aim, a four-step study will be conducted based on a specific regional case (i.e. Henan province). These four steps include:
- assess the performance of dairy farms in terms of nutrient management and their role within the food system;
- quantify nutrient flows related to dairy production at regional level and evaluate the feasibility of improving nutrient cycling through optimizing the use of local resources (e.g. land, manure, co-products)
- analyse the potential of technologies and system re-design to improve nutrient management at regional level
- explore on-farm economic and environmental consequences of proposed strategies to improve nutrient management.
Following this framework, the most promising, environmental-friendly and feasible options that improve nutrient cycling in the dairy sector as part of the entire food system will be identified in the selected region, with potential for broader application in North China.