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FAO: China's recovered poplar forests boost agriculture
2010/08/05

ROME, Aug. 4 (Xinhua) -- The recovering of poplar forests in Siyang County in Eastern China's Jiangsu Province is benefiting rural life and agricultural activities, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Wednesday.

Thanks to a joint program launched more than 30 years ago by the Rome-based agency and Italian plant research labs, new poplar forests have extended from 7 percent to 47 percent and are now covering more than 100,000 hectares of the county's land area.

Today the poplar forests play a crucial role in restoring marginal flood plains and stabilizing the river banks. Large swaths of planted poplar trees now protect fields once ravaged by floods, wind, sandstorms and soil erosion, giving boost to agricultural production and benefiting 1 million farmers living in the county.

According to the FAO, the Siyang case is an outstanding example of countryside reinforcement triggered by the successful application of the international transfer of germplasm, scientific knowledge and technology.

"Poplars are very fast-growing and amazingly resilient," said Jim Carle, leader of the Forestry Management Team at FAO. "They can grow in many sorts of ways and can easily integrate with other land uses, making them ideal for supporting animal husbandry, agriculture, aquaculture, viticulture and horticulture," he added.

Some of the services provided by these multi-purpose trees include furnishing material for shelter, shade and dwellings, protecting crops and supplying fodder for livestock, as well as offering viable sources of bio-energy.

Since the launch of the program the FAO has engaged Siyang farmers and smallholders in new income generating activities. The development of wood industries and resulting job creation has contributed to an improvement of the region's overall economic situation and an increase in the per capita income of both its urban and rural residents.

China is now the world's biggest poplar growing country. It has become the key player in poplar cultivation and is able to transfer knowledge and technology also to other regions in Central Asia.

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