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Home > Phase 1 > Phase 1 Yellow > Conservation agriculture for the dry-land areas of the Yellow River Basin (PN12)

Full Project Title: Conservation agriculture for the dry-land areas of the Yellow River Basin: Increasing the productivity, sustainability, equity and water use efficiency of dry-land agriculture, while protecting downstream water users (PN12)


In China’s Yellow River Basin, soil erosion coupled with rapidly growing demand from agriculture, domestic and industrial uses has resulted in a crisis of river flow and water availability since the 1990s.

Conservation agriculture (CA) with its reduced or zero tillage, mulch retention, crop rotations and cover crops is a solution to increase crop water availability and agro-ecosystem productivity, reduce soil erosion, increase soil organic matter and nutrient availability, reduce labor and fuel use and assist biological control of pests.

The project goal was to improve the incomes and livelihoods of smallholder farm families in the rain-fed cropping areas of Henan, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Shandong and Shanxi while improving soil quality and reducing land degradation and soil erosion.

Research Highlights

Research highlights

The collected data on CA for different cropping systems, soils and climates showed that CA techniques affect soil moisture (hydrology and crop growth) and temperature (crop establishment and growth). Consequently, it was found that CA increased agro-ecosystem productivity (in a majority of experiments): crop yields rose significantly while water and nutrient use efficiency went up by more than 20% for wheat and maize.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes

  • Participatory research identified experimental sites in five pilot counties in terms of soils, climate and cropping history provided a platform for a 4-year trial of CA techniques especially tillage and residue management with wheat, maize and cash crops. More than 5000 farmers took part in CA project training courses.
  • The project developed and improved no-till seeders and other machinery in all the site provinces e.g. 2BM-5X NT seeder used in direct seeding of wheat, maize and minor grain crops. Experiments with two-wheel tractor equipment and the import of three advanced no-till planters (“Happy Seeders”) from India to Ningxia Province proved successful in fostering the CA adoption.
  • Given that policy intervention often influences the adoption of CA technology, the project helped to put a no-till seeder in the list of China’s Agricultural Machinery Purchase Allowance resulting in 85 sets of the seeder being used to plant without tillage on more than 700 ha in the basin.
Publications and Outputs

Selected publications and outputs

  1. Yan Changrong, He Wenqing, Mei Xurong, John Dixon, Liu Qin, Liu Shuang, Liu Enke. Critical Research for Dryland Conservation Agriculture in the Yellow River Basin, China: Recent Results. Published by 4th World Congress on Conservation Agriculture, New Delhi, India, 2009, 50-59.
  2. Yan Changrong, J. Dixon, He Wenqing, Liu Enke, Liu Shuang and Liu Qin. Rainfed conservation agricultural systems in the Yellow River Basin, China. Proceedings of the International Workshop on Rainfed Cropping Systems Tamale, Ghana, 2009, 71-88.
  3. V. Nangia. M. Ahmad, Jiantao Du, Yan Changrong, G. Hoogenboom, Mei Xurong, He Wenqing, Liu Shuang and Liu Qin. Modeling the effects of conservation agriculture on land and water productivity of rainfed maize in the Yellow River Basin, China. Proceedings of the International Workshop on Rainfed Cropping Systems Tamale, Ghana, 2009, 147-166.
  4. Shi Jianguo, Zhang Yanqing, He Wenqing, Liu Qin. Study on Spatial and Temporal Variation of arid Index in Yellow River Basin. Agricultural Research in the Arid Areas, 2009, 27(1): 242-247.
  5. He Wenqing, Liu Enke, Yan Changrong, Bram Govaerts, Mei Xurong, Zhao Caixia, Liu Qin, Liu Shuang, Antonio Castellanos-Navarrete. Effect of conservation agriculture on the soil biochemical characteristics in semiarid area of north China, soil and tillage research (Review).
  6. Du Jiantao, Yan Changrong, Vinay Nangia, He Wenqing, et al. 2008. Modeling field-scale effects of conservation agriculture practices on soil water in northern dryland regions of China. Transactions of the CSAE, 24 (11), 25-29.
  7. Liu Qin, Yan Changrong, He Wenqing, et al. 2009. Dynamic variation of accumulated temperature data in recent 40 years in the Yellow River Basin. Journal of Natural Resources, 24(1): 147-153.
  8. Liu Qin, Yan Changrong, He Wenqing, Liu Shuang. The Study on the Soil Potential Productivity of Dryland Farming in Shouyang County of Shanxi Province. Transactions of the CSAE, 25 (1), 55-59.
  9. Shao Xiaomei, Xu Yueqing, Yan Changrong. Analysis on the Spatial and Temporal Structure of Climatic Water Deficit in the Yellow River Basin. Climatic and Environmental Research, 2007, 12(1):74-80.
  10. Shi Jianguo, Yan Changrong, He Wenqing, et al. Study on Spatiotemporal Change of Evapotranspiration in the Yellow River Basin. Arid Zone Research, 2007, 24 (6): 773-778.
Final Report
Project Partners

Project partners


Project Lead

Project lead


For more information on Phase 1 outputs please contact Udana Ariyawansa.