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Hi-tech tomatoes pump up production

China Daily | Updated: 2023-03-31 09:15

WUHAN — As temperatures begin to rise across China, farming is underway on the Jianghan plain in Hubei province.

Unlike traditional farming, greenhouses in Sanhe town, Yingcheng city, are being run by smart technology. Its drip irrigation systems, weather stations and sunshade nets work automatically to optimize conditions for growing vegetables.

In a bid to improve local agricultural development, Yingcheng has invested in the creation of a modern agricultural park covering some 13.33 hectares in Sanhe, which combines research, production and agri-tourism.

Greenhouses, each of which is 0.23 hectares in size, contain thousands of newly planted cherry tomato seedlings growing vigorously in soilless substrate.

"The substrate is soft and loose. It is made from crushed coconut shells," said Liu Quan, technical director of the park, adding that coconut chaff is permeable to air and is helpful to rooting seedlings.

"Unlike soil, which is vulnerable to pests and disease after years of cultivation, coconut chaff is less troubled," Liu said.

In the greenhouses, each plant comes with a nozzle linked to the drip irrigation system.

"The nozzles deliver nutrients directly to the substrate, and the amount of fertilizer and drip frequency is set in the irrigation system's control center," Liu said.

Toward noon, as the sunlight gets stronger, the sunshade automatically opens to reduce direct sunlight inside the greenhouse.

"We can detect environmental factors such as light, humidity and temperature in real-time thanks to a full-function environmental system, which is able to make intelligent adjustments to ensure that the tomato plants grow in an ideal state," Liu said.

Moreover, if there is frequent rain, lamps turn on to supplement lighting, and when temperatures rise too high, the greenhouses can discharge heat by turning on the ventilation and water circulating systems.

"After cherry tomatoes are planted in spring, the harvest period lasts from April to the following January," Liu said, adding that each greenhouse contains 4,600 plants and can produce about 50 metric tons of tomatoes a year, almost twice the output of traditional methods.

As a result, the agricultural park has attracted many nearby vegetable growers to learn from its experience.

"During harvest season, the park runs tomato picking activities for the public, and it has become a local attraction," said Jin Yicheng, deputy director of the city's department of agriculture and rural affairs.


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