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December 5, 2023  China Daily  

Dingxi Thrives From Growing Medicinal Herbs

Case Study; Innovative Poverty Alleviation Initiative; TCM; Longxi; Chinese Herb Varieties; Rural Revitalizaiton

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LANZHOU — Working under the scorching midday sun, farmer Yan Baiping is busy in his fields where Chinese herbs are grown. Yan's fields are located in Longxi county in Dingxi, Gansu province.

Last year, he planted 5 mu (about 0.33 hectares) of Chinese herbs and sold what he grew for a total of 30,000 yuan ($4,122).

"I expect an increase of at least 1,000 yuan in income per mu and have more plots this year," Yan said.

Dingxi has earned the label of "millennium medicine town" and is a key Chinese herbal medicine production area in Northwest China.

Commonly used varieties of Chinese herbs such as Radix astragali, Angelica sinensis and Codonopsis pilosula mostly come from this city.

There are more than 500,000 farming families in Dingxi, with over 60 percent engaged in planting Chinese herbs. On average, each household plants more than 0.4 hectares of herbs.

Chinese herbal medicine has become a pillar industry for farmers looking to boost their income and has helped fuel the revitalization of rural industries in Dingxi, where income from the cultivation and processing of Chinese herbs accounted for 20.5 percent of the annual per capita disposable income of farmers last year.

In 2019, Gansu established a germ-plasm bank for Chinese herbal medicines, integrating the introduction and domestication of new herb varieties, the protection of germ-plasm resources, the transformation of sci-tech research and development, and science training. Sci-tech innovation is of great benefit to the economic efficiency of the Chinese herbal medicine industry.

Under laboratory conditions at the germ-plasm bank, staff members can package and store Chinese medicinal seeds through precision operations such as drying, screening, numbering and coding, said Li Guangwen, an assistant agronomist at the bank.

Each seed is given a DNA bar code, Li said. Information about the germ plasm is available by scanning the bar code with a smartphone.

By the end of last year, Gansu had preserved 3,264 Chinese herbal germ-plasm items, with 94 varieties represented.

To date, Dingxi has managed to establish a 2,820-hectare herbal seed breeding base and a 10,220-hectare seedling breeding base.

Meanwhile, a rural credit cooperative in Longxi has carried out a large-scale transformation of terraced herb fields, which are suitable for mechanized farming, and has invited colleges and research institutes to provide guidance.

The output value of the cooperative is expected to exceed 3 million yuan this year, while traditional Chinese medicine processing enterprises in Dingxi increased their output value from 3.5 billion yuan in 2018 to 7 billion yuan last year.

Last year, the output value of the whole industrial chain of TCM reached 42.5 billion yuan in Dingxi, and the added value was 4.6 billion yuan.

The planting area used for TCM materials in Gansu reached 327,333 hectares last year, with a planting rate of 55 percent and an output of 1.47 million metric tons, according to Liu Borong, head of the TCM administration in the province.

Authorities such as the National Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine, are accelerating the formulation of documents to promote the high-quality development of the TCM industry and beefing up related sci-tech research nationwide.

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