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The Bond of a Decade Between HZAU Professors and Fruit Farmers in Jianshi County

“Professor Cai, the last batch of late-maturing fruits will be harvested soon. Next, we are ready for the winter management of fruit trees. What should we pay more attention to when pruning?” In the warm autumn sun, Li Caiguo, a kiwifruit grower, was checking the growth of fruit trees in an orchard. He sent the photo to Cai Lihong, a professor of HZAU, to ask him on how to cultivate, manage and protect fruit trees. In a moment, Professor Cai gave him a satisfactory answer.

Professors from HZAU always volunteered to help farmers readily in online and offline trainings and Q&A sessions, where fruit farmers may consult for technical guidance. The “extraordinary bond” between farmers and professors, spanning more than 500 kilometers, started from a kiwifruit disease that spread through Jianshi County, Hubei Province 10 years ago.

At that year, the kiwifruit industry in Jianshi County was plagued by canker disease, and about one-third of the county's kiwifruit orchards were abandoned, taking heavy toll on farmers. “Under the guidance of professors of HZAU, we re-selected new disease-resistant varieties to reduce the incidence rate. Now the kiwifruit industry is burgeoning.” Li said.

Since the paired assistance in Jianshi County was initiated in 2012, HZAU has combined the local situation and needs to leverage its own advantages, and organized a team of multi-disciplinary professors and experts to integrate “blood transfusion” with “blood making” of poverty alleviation in Jianshi County. HZAU has developed a   paired-assistance mechanism featured by “focusing on a specialty industry, building a team of professors, setting up a key project, supporting a leading enterprise, promoting the development of a number of specialized cooperatives, and helping local people shake off poverty and live a better life”.

Drip irrigation equipment, cold storage facility and other facilities can be found in the kiwifruit base in Luojiaba Village, Yezhou Town, Jianshi County. With the whole-chain support from multi-disciplinary experts of HZAU, the fruit farmers carried out scientific and fine cultivation based on the growth data of kiwifruit, and conducted a whole-process technical management from planting to harvest.

Wei Peng, Director of the Social Services Department of the Academy of Science and Technology Development at HZAU, introduced that HZAU has taken full consideration of the local situation and focused on kiwifruit, tea, sweet persimmon and other specialty resources to develop and expand the local industries. In addition, HZAU has built 24 teams of professors and set up 53 industrial key projects, which helped develop five 100 million RMB industries, including kiwifruit and tea.

The Characteristic Horticultural Crop Variety Breeding Center in Wuling Mountain, jointly built by HZAU and Jianshi County, is a “trial-and-error” platform to enhance the protection of local horticultural crops, variety breeding and supply capacity. During the past 5 years, the center has planted 115 horticultural crops, including cherry trees, plum trees and peach trees, among which 26 varieties suitable for conditions in Jianshi County were selected and bred. Finally, 7 widespread commercial cultivars such as Qiu Yue Pear and Crispy Red Plum were introduced.

“With the support from professors, we will try to grow high-quality varieties of fruits, vegetables, flowers and teas from other places, and thus find high-quality varieties suitable for the local conditions. If we try more, the farmers will avoid more detours.” Said Li Dengchao, director of the center.

Build a local team of talent and sow a seed of hope. Today, in Jianshi County, a local talent team trained by HZAU has been growing step by step. Liu Kaikun, the director of the Agricultural Comprehensive Development Office in Jianshi County, who is known as the “best apprentice” of Professor Cai, once followed him to all the fruit-growing villages in the county and is now a well-known skilled expert. “From tea cultivation to tea making techniques to brand promotion, the multi-disciplinary HZAU professors have imparted me so much knowledge,” said Li Lin, head of Shizhu Tea Company, a local brand in Jianshi County that has grown up with the help of HZAU.

During rural slack seasons, it is common for farmers in Jianshi County to ride motorcycles or tricycles to attend the trainings organized by HZAU professors. Liu Kaikun explained that more and more farmers have been more aware of the importance of scientific planting and management, and enhanced literacy in agricultural science. Instead of blindly pursuing rapid success, they aim to plant every tree well and ensure survival and yield of the fruit tress. They are full of confidence in the sustainable revitalization and development of the industry.

Translated by: Liu Yixuan
Proofread by: Guo Haiyan