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Researchers evaluate the effects of soybean import on Land-Water-Food-Environment nexus


Soybean import accounts for 90% of China’s total domestic soybean supply. Such import has a substantial impact on how the country’s resources are used as well as on its environment, while it is less studied.


In 2020, a research was conducted to perform a national-scale assessment of the impact of soybean import on domestic cropland conversion, crop production, water use and nitrogen (N) fertilizer application. Results show that, from 2004 to 2016, soybean production in China decreased by 26% (4.46 million tons) and sown areas were reduced by 25% (2.39 million ha). Of the areas taken out of the soybean production, 70% were converted to maize, 20% to rice, 3% to vegetables and 7% to fruits during this period. As a result of the cropland conversion, the production of maize, rice, vegetables and fruits increased by 10.42, 3.34, 2.49 and 3.26 million tons respectively. However, irrigation water use in the areas that were converted to the cultivation of the four types of crops increased by 96.42% (3.05 km3), with much of it coming from northern provinces where water is generally scarce. The application of N fertilizer increased by 256.65 thousand tons (almost 5 times) on the converted areas, partly due to the loss of the N-fixing soybean cultivation.


The analysis of the land-water-food-environment nexus in the context of soybean import provides comprehensive and useful information about the benefits and trade-offs associated with China’s international soybean trade.


This work has been published as an article entitled "The Land-Water-Food-Environment nexus in the context of China’s soybean import" in Advances in Water Resources.


Article link:



REN Dandan. Email: ddren@sjziam.ac.cn


Center for Agricultural Resources Research (CARR), Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology of CAS: http://english.sjziam.cas.cn/


Dandan Ren, Hong Yang, Lingfeng Zhou, Yonghui Yang, Wenfeng Liu, Xiaohua Hao, Peipei Pan. The Land-Water-Food-Environment nexus in the context of China’s soybean import. Advances in Water Resources, 151(2021), 103892.






Figure a, b and c indicate effects of cropland conversion from soybean to four substitute crops on crop production (CP, 103 ton), water use (WU, million m3) and N application (NA, 10 ton) respectively.