China will have to abandon a little more rice, corn and wheat, the basis of its diet, in favor of potatoes. A necessary conversion to ensure food security and more sustainable agriculture in the context of climate change, says a study by experts from Nanjing University published in the journal Nature Food.
In fact, if the country does not change its agricultural practices, its current development will mean that by 2030 crops will release 20% more greenhouse gases, requiring 19% water and 17% additional soil, they say. researchers. According to their models, a greater use of potatoes in the country’s diet would, on the contrary, considerably reduce the amounts of greenhouse gases released by agricultural activity (between 13 and 24%) and water consumption (11%). and use of arable land.
Potatoes require less water and fertilizer
The potato is far from unknown in China: it has even become the world’s largest producer! But the yield of their crops is much lower than that of other countries such as France or the United States. The cultivation of tubers also has many advantages over corn, rice and wheat. It can be adapted to more varied terrains and cultivated in poorer and more remote agricultural regions located in the west of the country. In addition, it is quite resistant to drought and cold and can be harvested throughout the year depending on the region. It also requires less fertilizer compared to corn in often poor soils. Compared to rice, it consumes much less water, the availability of which runs the risk of being reduced by the effects of climate change and the current overexploitation of groundwater. Finally, the potato has an important nutritional value compared to cereals, with its interesting content in fiber, vitamins C and B6 and potassium. However, it has the disadvantage of not being well preserved, which still causes significant losses during transport or storage.
A junk food risk
As early as 2013, China’s Ministry of Agriculture had advocated the use of potato flour instead of wheat in traditional recipes for steamed noodles and buns so that it also becomes a food base in the country. The fear is, however, that the consumption of potatoes too close to that practiced in the West, that is, cooked with vegetable or animal fats, will develop with fast food and urbanization, which would further increase the already high rate of obese people in the country. However, as other crops stabilize and deplete the land in China, researchers believe potato cultivation could play a crucial role for food security and more sustainable development in the country.