, Volume 44, Issue 7, pp 647–652 | Cite as

Practices, perceptions, and implications of fertilizer use in East-Central China

  • Xiaoying Yang
  • Shubo Fang


Face-to-face interviews (n = 553) were conducted in five counties in East-Central China to study farmers’ fertilizer application behaviors, decision-making processes, attitudes towards adopting better fertilizer application technologies, and environmental consciousness. The survey results revealed widespread fertilizer misapplication and highly variable application behaviors in the study regions. The lack of scientific knowledge on fertilizers and the absence of guidance from agricultural extension services have forced the farmers to rely on personal judgment and advice from fertilizer dealers and friends to make decisions in fertilizer application. Overall, farmers have been idiosyncratic in fertilizer application with limited adoption of better fertilizer application technologies. There are great potentials for reducing pollutant load from agricultural runoff through promoting scientific fertilizer application in the regions. However, farmers’ diverse preferences over agricultural extension programs necessitate an integrated approach emphasizing farmer involvement throughout the development of such programs for promoting better fertilizer application practices.


Fertilizer use Farmer behavior Perception Survey Environmental consciousness 



The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support provided by Chinese Natural Science Foundation (41201191), Chinese Ministry of Education New Faculty Fund (20120071120034), Fudan University Tyndall Center Project (FTC98503B04), and Fudan University Young Faculty Improvement Fund (20520133208).


  1. Adrian, A.M., S.H. Norwood, and P.L. Mask. 2005. Producers’ perceptions and attitudes toward precision agriculture technologies. Computers and Electronics in Agriculture 48: 256–271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Cui, Z.L., X.P. Chen, and F.S. Zhang. 2010. Current nitrogen management status and measures to improve the intensive wheat-maize system in China. AMBIO 39: 376–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Dobermann, A., and K.G. Cassman. 2005. Cereal area and nitrogen use efficiency are drivers of future nitrogen fertilizer consumption. Science in China Series C 48: 745–758.Google Scholar
  4. Glibert, P.M., J. Harrison, C. Heil, and S. Seitzinger. 2006. Escalating worldwide use of urea—A global change contributing to coastal eutrophication. Biogeochemistry 77: 441–463.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Han, H.Y., and L.G. Zhao. 2009. Farmers’ character and behavior of fertilizer application—Evidence from a survey of Xinxiang County, Henan Province, China. Agricultural Sciences in China 8: 1238–1245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Hite, D., D. Hudson, and W. Intarapapong. 2002. Willingness to pay for water quality improvements: The case of precision application technology. Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics 27: 433–449.Google Scholar
  7. Howarth, R.W. 2008. Coastal nitrogen pollution: A review of sources and trends globally and regionally. Harmful Algae 8: 14–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Huang, T.Y., W. Wu, and W.W. Li. 2013. Identifying the major pollution sources and pollution loading status of Qiputang River in Taihu Lake basin of China. Desalination and Water Treatment 51: 4736–4743.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Ju, X., X. Liu, F. Zhang, and M. Roelcke. 2004. Nitrogen fertilization, soil nitrate accumulation, and policy recommendations in several agricultural regions of China. AMBIO 33: 300–305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Ladha, J.K., H. Pathak, T.J. Krupnik, J. Six, and C. van Kessel. 2005. Efficiency of fertilizer nitrogen in cereal production: Retrospects and prospects. Advances in Agronomy 87: 85–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Ma, L., F. Wang, W. Zhang, W. Ma, G. Velthof, W. Qin, O. Oenema, and F. Zhang. 2013. Environmental assessment of management options for nutrient flows in the food chain in China. Environmental Science and Technology 47: 7260–7268.Google Scholar
  12. Ongley, E.D., X. Zhang, and T. Yu. 2010. Current status of agricultural and rural non-point source pollution assessment in China. Environmental Pollution 158: 1159–1168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Peng, S., R.J. Buresh, J. Huang, J. Yang, Y. Zou, X. Zhong, G. Wang, and F. Zhang. 2006. Strategies for overcoming low agronomic nitrogen use efficiency in irrigated rice systems in China. Field Crops Research 96: 37–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Qin, H. 2010. Rural-to-urban labor migration, household livelihoods, and the rural environment in Chongqing Municipality, Southwest China. Human Ecology 38: 675–690.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Sun, B., L.X. Zhang, L.Z. Yang, F.S. Zhang, D. Norse, and Z.L. Zhu. 2012. Agricultural non-point source pollution in China: Causes and mitigation measures. AMBIO 41: 370–379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Tey, Y.S., and M. Brindal. 2012. Factors influencing the adoption of precision agricultural technologies: A review for policy implications. Precision Agriculture 13: 713–730.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Turner, R.E., and N.N. Rabalais. 2003. Linking landscape and water quality in the Mississippi river basin for 200 years. BioScience 53: 563–572.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Wu, Y., and J. Chen. 2013. Investigating the effects of point source and nonpoint source pollution on the water quality of the East River (Dongjiang) in South China. Ecological Indicators 32: 294–304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Xie, Y., J. Yang, S. Du, J. Zhao, Y. Li, and E. Huffman. 2012. A GIS-based fertilizer decision support system for farmers in Northeast China: A case study at Tong-le village. Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems 93: 323–336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Xiong, Z., J. Freney, A. Mosier, Z. Zhu, Y. Lee, and K. Yagi. 2008. Impacts of population growth, changing food preferences and agricultural practices on the nitrogen cycle in East Asia. Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems 80: 189–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Yan, Z., P. Liu, Y. Li, L. Ma, A. Alva, Z. Dou, Q. Chen, and F. Zhang. 2013. Phosphorus in China’s intensive vegetable production systems: Overfertilization, soil enrichment, and environmental implications. Journal of Environmental Quality 42: 982–989.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Yang, X., and W. Jin. 2010. GIS-based spatial regression and prediction of water quality in river networks: A case study in Iowa. Journal of Environmental Management 91: 1943–1951.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Yang, X., S. Fang, C.L. Lant, X. Luo, and Z. Zheng. 2012. Overfertilization in the economically developed and ecologically critical Lake Tai region, China. Human Ecology 40: 957–964.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Zbinden, S., and D.R. Lee. 2005. Paying for environmental services: An analysis of participation in Costa Rica’s PSA program. World Development 33: 255–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Zhang, Y., S. Luan, L. Chen, and M. Shao. 2011. Estimating the volatilization of ammonia from synthetic nitrogenous fertilizers used in China. Journal of Environmental Management 92: 480–493.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Zhu, Z.L., and D.L. Chen. 2002. Nitrogen fertilizer use in China—Contributions to food production, impacts on the environment and best management strategies. Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems 63: 117–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental Science and EngineeringFudan UniversityShanghaiChina
  2. 2.College of Fisheries and Life ScienceShanghai Ocean UniversityShanghaiChina

Personalised recommendations