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Greenhouses Revolutionize Rural Economy in W China

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Farmers in China's arid west are taking advantage of the region's ample sunshine to increase farm output.

In the northwestern Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, a mostly Muslim community, many farmers have built greenhouses so they can grow chilis, cucumbers and tomatoes all year round.

Ma Junxian, from Pengyang County in Guyuan City, makes at least 20,000 yuan (US$2,941) in net annual income by growing celery, broccoli and chili throughout the year in his 667-square-meter greenhouse.

He said it was 10 times as much as what he used to earn by growing potatoes and Chinese cabbages -- and relying solely on the weather for a harvest.

Vegetable and fruit supplies have always been a problem in western China, where the long, tough winters make it impossible for many plants to grow.

For many generations, potatoes and Chinese cabbages were what people ate for three seasons of the year.

The region, however, has more sunshine than most other parts of the country.

In Ningxia alone, the average exposure to sunshine is 2,250 to 3,100 hours a year, averaging up to eight hours a day.

The greenhouses have revolutionized the rural economy and kept farmers busy all year long.

"Everyone earns more and has more dishes on the table," said Cheng Yushan, manager of Tianyu Agricultural Development Co. based in Ningxia's Wuzhong City.

The company has set up 80 greenhouses on the edge of the desert to grow fruits and vegetables.

"The region's arid climate and ample sunshine are ideal for growing organic and pollution-free crops," said Cheng. "There's active photosynthesis but pests are rare, so we can minimize the use of fertilizers and pesticides."

(Xinhua News Agency August 5, 2010)

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