Lessons in Rice, Water, and Farming

Circle of Blue’s senior editor reports from the field, literally, as he ends his second week in the rice paddies of rural China.

SHENYANG, China — The rice paddies start immediately beyond the borders of Liaoning’s provincial capital, a growing city of 8.1 million residents. Like a whirling turbine, the city flings 10-lane boulevards and 30-story apartment towers ever further into the countryside.

As part of my research, I’m out here tracking down new irrigation systems. Finding the rice and evidence of China’s new investment in modern irrigation infrastructure is a 50-minute cab ride from center city.

Water supply and water quality are two of the big impediments to farm production in this northeast China province. A year ago, provincial farm authorities replaced a “mud-banked” canal with a “branch-irrigation” canal that supplies farmers with water from the Liao River. But as we rode out to Fahaniu Village 1 where the canal was completed a year ago — I also learned that, over the past two decades, the township had lost half of its cropland to urban development.