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Review on drivers, trends and emerging issues of the food wastage in China

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Abstract

China has successfully achieved food self-sufficiency over the past 50 years, however, with large inputs and losses. To meet the challenge of feeding a growing population with limited resources, many studies have explored options for improving productivity and efficiency of the food production. However, there have been few studies into the potential of reducing food loss along the whole food production-consumption chain. Here we review the literature on food waste in China. We briefly analyze (1) the drivers that influence levels of food waste in the food chain, (2) examine trends in the volumes and types of food wasted at different stages in the food chain, (3) assess the environmental and resource consequences of food waste in the food chain, and (4) evaluate the policy and stakeholder responses to the emerging challenges. It is concluded that reducing food loss and meeting food security in China requires a coherent institutional structure that promotes the synergistic outcomes of research, policy and education. Suggested key actions include (1) improving machinery and facility for sowing, harvesting, transportation and storage, which can reduce food loss by up to 50%, and (2) improving food waste recycling management, based on coupled food production and consumption systems.

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Most cited references 29

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Enhanced nitrogen deposition over China.

China is experiencing intense air pollution caused in large part by anthropogenic emissions of reactive nitrogen. These emissions result in the deposition of atmospheric nitrogen (N) in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, with implications for human and ecosystem health, greenhouse gas balances and biological diversity. However, information on the magnitude and environmental impact of N deposition in China is limited. Here we use nationwide data sets on bulk N deposition, plant foliar N and crop N uptake (from long-term unfertilized soils) to evaluate N deposition dynamics and their effect on ecosystems across China between 1980 and 2010. We find that the average annual bulk deposition of N increased by approximately 8 kilograms of nitrogen per hectare (P < 0.001) between the 1980s (13.2 kilograms of nitrogen per hectare) and the 2000s (21.1 kilograms of nitrogen per hectare). Nitrogen deposition rates in the industrialized and agriculturally intensified regions of China are as high as the peak levels of deposition in northwestern Europe in the 1980s, before the introduction of mitigation measures. Nitrogen from ammonium (NH4(+)) is the dominant form of N in bulk deposition, but the rate of increase is largest for deposition of N from nitrate (NO3(-)), in agreement with decreased ratios of NH3 to NOx emissions since 1980. We also find that the impact of N deposition on Chinese ecosystems includes significantly increased plant foliar N concentrations in natural and semi-natural (that is, non-agricultural) ecosystems and increased crop N uptake from long-term-unfertilized croplands. China and other economies are facing a continuing challenge to reduce emissions of reactive nitrogen, N deposition and their negative effects on human health and the environment.
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The carbon balance of terrestrial ecosystems in China.

Global terrestrial ecosystems absorbed carbon at a rate of 1-4 Pg yr(-1) during the 1980s and 1990s, offsetting 10-60 per cent of the fossil-fuel emissions. The regional patterns and causes of terrestrial carbon sources and sinks, however, remain uncertain. With increasing scientific and political interest in regional aspects of the global carbon cycle, there is a strong impetus to better understand the carbon balance of China. This is not only because China is the world's most populous country and the largest emitter of fossil-fuel CO(2) into the atmosphere, but also because it has experienced regionally distinct land-use histories and climate trends, which together control the carbon budget of its ecosystems. Here we analyse the current terrestrial carbon balance of China and its driving mechanisms during the 1980s and 1990s using three different methods: biomass and soil carbon inventories extrapolated by satellite greenness measurements, ecosystem models and atmospheric inversions. The three methods produce similar estimates of a net carbon sink in the range of 0.19-0.26 Pg carbon (PgC) per year, which is smaller than that in the conterminous United States but comparable to that in geographic Europe. We find that northeast China is a net source of CO(2) to the atmosphere owing to overharvesting and degradation of forests. By contrast, southern China accounts for more than 65 per cent of the carbon sink, which can be attributed to regional climate change, large-scale plantation programmes active since the 1980s and shrub recovery. Shrub recovery is identified as the most uncertain factor contributing to the carbon sink. Our data and model results together indicate that China's terrestrial ecosystems absorbed 28-37 per cent of its cumulated fossil carbon emissions during the 1980s and 1990s.
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Reducing environmental risk by improving N management in intensive Chinese agricultural systems.

Excessive N fertilization in intensive agricultural areas of China has resulted in serious environmental problems because of atmospheric, soil, and water enrichment with reactive N of agricultural origin. This study examines grain yields and N loss pathways using a synthetic approach in 2 of the most intensive double-cropping systems in China: waterlogged rice/upland wheat in the Taihu region of east China versus irrigated wheat/rainfed maize on the North China Plain. When compared with knowledge-based optimum N fertilization with 30-60% N savings, we found that current agricultural N practices with 550-600 kg of N per hectare fertilizer annually do not significantly increase crop yields but do lead to about 2 times larger N losses to the environment. The higher N loss rates and lower N retention rates indicate little utilization of residual N by the succeeding crop in rice/wheat systems in comparison with wheat/maize systems. Periodic waterlogging of upland systems caused large N losses by denitrification in the Taihu region. Calcareous soils and concentrated summer rainfall resulted in ammonia volatilization (19% for wheat and 24% for maize) and nitrate leaching being the main N loss pathways in wheat/maize systems. More than 2-fold increases in atmospheric deposition and irrigation water N reflect heavy air and water pollution and these have become important N sources to agricultural ecosystems. A better N balance can be achieved without sacrificing crop yields but significantly reducing environmental risk by adopting optimum N fertilization techniques, controlling the primary N loss pathways, and improving the performance of the agricultural Extension Service.

Author and article information

Affiliations
1. Key Laboratory of Agricultural Water Resources, Center for Agricultural Resources Research, Institute of Genetic and Developmental Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shijiazhuang 050021, China
2. Department of Soil Quality, Wageningen University and Research Centre, Wageningen 6700, the Netherlands
3. Food Climate Research Network, Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3QY, UK
4. Department of Plant Nutrition, Key Laboratory of Plant-Soil Interactions of Ministry of Education, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100193, China
Author notes
malin1979@sjziam.ac.cn
Contributors
Journal
Front. Agr. Sci. Eng.
FASE
CN10-1204/S
Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering
Higher Education Press (4 Huixin Dongjie, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100029, China)
2095-7505
2015
: 2
: 2
: 159-167

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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