Due to China's rapid economic growth, many interested parties are concerned about environmental sustainability and persistence of China's agriculture in light of the many demands placed upon it. Herein, we discuss sustainability of prataculture and ecosystems in south China. Prataculture generally includes golf course, pasture, range, city grasslands, forage, and livestock productions. This chapter will focus on forage and livestock production systems because this type of prataculture is still relatively small, and has not received much attention yet in the country.

Traditionally, herbivore productions are located in north China. For example, in early 2000s, Hunan Province, a typical southern province, had produced only 130 mL milk per capita per year (Ye et al., 2002). The milk demand requires importation from other provinces such as Inner Mongolia or even overseas. Accordingly, the rural communities do not have much experience in consumption of milk or other herbivore products. The southern provinces in the country have traditionally produced grains such as rice (Oryza sativa L.) and wheat (Triticum aestivum, L.). However, south China has climatic advantage compared to northern China with respect to bovine production because of southern China's abundant water and heat resources. In recent decades, central and local governments have attempted to regulate and optimize the structure of agricultural industries and diversify food components. As the economy develops, the country has also had to address challenges that threaten its important ecosystems.

To achieve agricultural diversification and adequate food supply in south China, strategic and technical assistance are required at the local level for both government agencies and producers. If prataculture is to continue to be developed, then ecosystem management must also develop to offset unsustainable practices. Sustainability for southern China must include both agricultural improvements and environmental protection.


China covers the latitudes from about 18 to more than 53 oN. North China is the land area north of the Yellow River. South China is defined as those regions south of the Yangtze River. The area around Huai River and between Yellow River and Yangtze River is called as central China. Simply based upon this large change in latitude, there are differences in climatic conditions between north and south China (Table 1) (Chinese Academy of Meteorology and Nanjing Institute of Meteorology, 1981). Obviously, the south has great advantages in rainfall and heat resources, but disadvantages in light resources compared to the north (Table 1).

Urumqi and Beijing (Figure 1) are both northern cities; whereas, Fuzhou and Guiyang both southern cities. Annual sunshine hours in the northern cities (Figure 1) are approximately two to three times as much as those in the southern cities. The sunshine hours in Urumqi are actually 182% greater than that in Guiyang.

Therefore, Dr. Ying Ding (1888-1964), the first President (1957-1964) of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, noted that northern China, particularly the northwest, had a great advantage compared to other parts of the country for producing grains (Dr. Gengling Liu, personal communication, 1995). Ding's insight is certainly correct because reproductive growth (grain production) requirements for climatic resources are remarkably different from vegetative growth as the following section will show.

Table 1. Comparison between agricultural meteorological resources in the north of Yellow River and south of Yangtze River

Agricultural meteorological resources

In the north of Yellow River

In the south of Yangtze River

Total annual radiation (kcal/cm2)



Total annual sunshine hours (hr)



Percentage of sunshine ( % )



Accumulative temperature above 0oC



Frost-free period (day)



Annual rainfall (mm)



Urumqi Beijing Fuzhou Guiyang

Figure 1. The differences in annual sunshine hours among four cities in China . Urumqi: the capital of Xingjiang Province, a northwestern city; Beijing: the capital of the country, a northern city; Fuzhou: the capital of Fujian Province, a southern city; Guiyang: the capital of Guizhou Province, a southwestern city.

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