UK-China Soil and Sustainable Development Research Lecture Series

11 October 2022 ChinaEnvironmentNewton Fund

Secure food production for present and future generations relies on healthy agricultural soils and using resources sustainably.  This has been a major focus of UK-China science and innovation through the Newton Fund, benefiting both countries and beyond.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of UK-China diplomatic relations. It also marks the 15year presence of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) in China. Join us for a series of lectures on soil and sustainable development research to celebrate the occasion. Our scientists will showcase some of the excellent research collaborations and impact achieved through this important partnership.

The four lectures are scheduled as below:

  • 12 October, 12:00-13:00: Using Critical Zone Science for China’s Sustainable Agriculture - Livestream link
  • 18 October, 12:00-13:00: The Role of Soil Carbon for Climate Change Mitigation and Food Safety  - Livestream link
  • 24 October, 12:00-13:00: UK-China Virtual Joint Centres in Agricultural Nitrogen - Livestream link
  • 26 October, 12:00-13:00: Zero-Waste Agricultural Mulch Films for Crops in China - Livestream link

Lectures are in partnership with UK Science and Innovation Network, UKRI China Office, the Newton Fund China team and International Journal Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering (FASE).


You can catch up on the event recordings here -

12 October: Critical zone science for China’s sustainable agriculture

A new class of Critical Zone Observatories (CZOs) were established in China to explore how environmental processes, from the top of vegetation through 10’s to 100’s of metres of soil to bedrock, interact with land management.  These 5 China CZOs cover vastly different geological regions in karst, loess, and red soil environments that encompass over one third of China’s land area and support 25% of the population. Another CZO lies in the peri-urban coastal zone, reflecting urban migration that is growing in China, with over one sixth of China’s population already migrated from rural areas and 52% of the population in cities.

This lecture will provide an overview of key findings from the CZOs, obtained by a team of over 50 research leaders from China and the UK and many other postdoctoral scientists and students. An overarching theme is integrating people into critical zone science to tackle threats to food and environmental security. Speakers will describe a follow-on project that explored how CZOs interact with people and the development of decision support tools to guide future practices.

18 October: The role of soil carbon for climate change mitigation and food safety

Soil carbon pools are the largest carbon pools in terrestrial ecosystems. The main source of soil carbon pool input is photosynthesis of plants (including crops), and the dynamic transfer of soil carbon is closely related to the health and yield of crops. Carbon dioxide and methane are the main products of soil carbon released into the atmosphere, and they are also two important factors affecting global climate change. Soil carbon research plays an important role in mitigating climate change and ensuring food security.

Providing enough food for the world's growing population and slowing the rise in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations are the two biggest challenges facing humanity in this century. Agro-ecosystems have a dual role in ensuring food production and increasing soil organic carbon sequestration to mitigate the greenhouse effect. But changing land management to store carbon in soil organic matter will require a lot of effort, and the UK and China have been promoting scientific and technological cooperation in this area.

24 October: Progress on Improving Agricultural Nitrogen Use Efficiency: UK-China Virtual Joint Centres on Nitrogen Agronomy

Two complementary virtual joint centres for nitrogen agronomy were established between the UK and China to facilitate collaborative research aimed at improving nitrogen use efficiency in agricultural production systems and reducing losses of reactive nitrogen to the environment. Research teams involved scientists from over 20 universities and research institutes in the UK and China, and included exchange of scientists and students between the two countries.

Major research focus areas were improving fertilizer nitrogen use efficiency, improved use of livestock manures, the importance and role of soil health, the mitigation of reactive nitrogen and greenhouse gas emissions, and policy development and knowledge exchange. A range of potential actions that could be taken to improve nitrogen management were identified, and the research conducted has highlighted the importance of developing a systems-level approach.

26 October: Zero-Waste Agricultural Mulch Films for Crops in China

Plastic has become one of the important means of production in global agriculture, especially the application of agricultural film has played an important role in ensuring the safe supply of global agricultural products. As an important member of the agricultural film family, mulch film is particularly important to China's agricultural production. China uses 75% of the total global mulch film, and the annual crop coverage area is nearly 300 million mu. Plastic film mulching can increase crop water use efficiency and yield by 30%, generating direct economic benefits of more than 120 billion yuan per year.

Unfortunately, the residual pollution of farmland caused by the application of plastic film is shocking. Plastic pollution is global, and residual pollution of plastic film is a special problem in China. Under the background of green and sustainable development researchers will explain how to achieve a win-win situation between the rational application of plastic film and the prevention and control of residual pollution, and how to increase farmers' production and income and protect the environment.