URUMQI: Yang Yuanjun has been checking temperatures, not for people, but for the soil, four times a day recently, as he knows the best time to grow cotton is approaching.
Living in Yuli County in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the 50-year-old man has grown cotton for 30 years.
The planting area of cotton in Xinjiang reached about 2.54 million hectares in 2019, accounting for 76 percent of the country’s total. The region has ranked first in the country’s total cotton output, per unit output and planting area for 25 consecutive years.
Although he is a seasoned farmer, Yang trusts scientific data more than planting experience. He checks the soil temperature every year between the end of March and the beginning of April to make sure that cotton seeds can be sown at the best time.
“Seeds can only be sown when the soil has a temperature above 14 degrees Celsius at a depth of 5 cm for three consecutive days,” said Yang, adding a lower temperature would affect the germination of the seeds, while a higher temperature would have impacts on cotton’s output and quality.
In 2018, agricultural enterprise Xinjiang Lihua Group Co., LTD rented thousands of hectares of land in Yuli County to grow cotton, introducing and promoting scale operation of cotton fields there.
Last year, Yang was employed by the enterprise for his advanced planting skills and management methods. As a technician, he is in charge of over 966-hectare cotton field.
Yang placed five thermometers in his field and needs to check the soil temperature at 2 a.m., 8 a.m., 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. every day. Sometimes he has to kneel on the ground to read the temperatures.
Still Yang thought the soil temperatures were not accurate enough. “I use a flashlight to check the soil temperature at 2 a.m., but the light can heat the mercury in the thermometers, while the high temperature of soil surface at noon would lead to errors in the measurement.”
Besides, Yang began to record all the planting data and file them away after becoming a technician of Lihua Group. He becomes the first local cotton grower to digitize years of growing experience.
Yang believes that the data can not only help plant cotton and improve the management but also summarize some rules and work out solutions to cotton growing problems.
Meanwhile, the county has also stepped up efforts to develop high-standard mechanized production and intelligent agriculture technology.