Apcocynum Pictum and Sustainable Agriculture Along the Tarim River In Arid Northwest, China
Abstract:Water scarcity and population increase have been a major limiting factor in oasis development along the Tarim River in Xinjiang, Northwest China which has very continental and dry climate, and all the agriculture and livelihoods depend on glacier melt water from Tarim River. Due to vast land reclamation along the Tarim River to grow cotton, native plant species are facing a severe competition for water, which is essential for their survival. Decreasing river runoff and inefficient water use practices by agriculture and industry has exacerbated already serious situation even worse. In addition, a large influx of migrant famers from Eastern China is being settled in this region to cultivate new agricultural lands that consumed even more water. Under those conditions, the natural riparian vegetation and the irrigation agriculture, especially along the lower reaches, suffers water shortage leading the degradation and economic losses, respectively. Along with the enlargement of irrigation area and periods of water shortage, soil salinization has become a major concern for farmers in the area.
Alternative cash crops are much needed to reduce water use, so both native vegetation and human demand for water would be fulfilled. We hypothesized Apocynum Pictum, perennial herb species with multiple uses as potential substitute. Multidisciplinary approach is being used in this study to investigate three related issues to offer a basis for Apocynum’s role in sustainable agriculture, such as Biomass production of Apocynum; Water budget of Apocynum; and Economic utilization of Apocynum. A.Pictum is perennial plant distributed in Central Asia and China, which its roots are perennial, while the stems die every year. Thus, A.pictum grow under the arid climate of Central Asia and provide utilization options without irrigation. We initially estimate water requirement for this plant is much less than cotton. In order to validate our hypothesis, we have measured water consumption of the plant. Mean while, leaves of A.pictum can be used to produce tea and stems can be used to produce fiber. It could compensate farmer’s loss from potential land use switch. Finally we believe that A.pctum offers viable alternative to reduce water demand and ensure long-term sustainability of oasis along the Tarim River.