Position:  News
Hands-on agriculturalist raises yields in countryside farmlands
Time:2022-05-06 15:36:38

Guo Suping (left) checks the status of apple trees in an orchard in Xingtai, Hebei province, in October. CHINA DAILY

Guo Suping (left) checks the status of apple trees in an orchard in Xingtai, Hebei province, in October. CHINA DAILY

A dedicated college researcher in North China's Hebei province has spent the majority of her career working in the fields of rural farms rather than in a library on campus.

Guo Suping, 64, has devoted herself to helping rural farmers improve the quantity and quality of their crops, and in turn has helped to improve their incomes.

Halfway up an apple tree in an orchard in the village of Gangdi in Neiqiu county, Xingtai, Guo snips away at branches so that the tree can bear fruit to its maximum potential when the time comes.

Though she may resemble a humble farmer, she is actually a researcher at the Department of Ecology, College of Forestry, Hebei Agricultural University, based in Baoding, Hebei.

"My life has been very much like a farmer's as I also work in the fields. I feel it is a very enriching way of life," she said.

April is a busy month for Guo because it is the time of year when trimming apple trees is crucial to ensuring bumper bushels.

On a typical day in the middle of April, she is up at dawn to inspect local farmers' orchards.

Yang Shuangkui is one such farmer who has benefited from Guo's expertise over the years.

"Trees of different ages should be left with different amounts of flowers, so that they can bear apples to their best," Guo said. "It's not a case of the more flowers, the better."

Yang, 61, has used more than 3,000 square meters of rugged land in the village of Gangdi for growing apples since 1984.

In 2015, his trees were 31 years old and facing problems related to declining apple quality.

Under the guidance of Guo and agriculturalist Li Baoguo, Guo's husband, Yang dug up 72 old trees and replaced them with a new variety, improved soil quality and applied fertilizers.

The new trees produced nearly 4.5 kilograms of apples per square meter in their third year, a yield that was more than double what Yang had expected.

"Guo came to my land almost every day to give me all kinds of guidance and teach me related techniques," Yang said, adding that he has passed on the skills learned from Guo to other farmers.

Guo also leads a team consisting of more than 30 experts that is engaged in the development of mountainous areas and innovation in the fruit industry. The team is named after her husband, who died six years ago.

Since the 1980s, the couple had worked together in mountainous villages. As agriculturists, they devoted themselves to the research and application of agricultural technologies.

Li developed many crop-growing techniques, and established advanced models for the development and management of mountainous regions, which greatly improved villagers' lives.

After his death, Guo didn't stop their shared mission.

She spent an average of more than 200 days a year in the villages in Taihang mountains in Hebei, providing technical guidance for local fruit growers and carrying out research on how to improve the yield and quality of fruits, including apples, pears and kiwis.

"Since the 1980s, we have helped village residents overcome poverty and I hope my research can continue to contribute to their prosperity," Guo said.

With the aim of popularizing technology and techniques related to fruit tree cultivation, Guo has traveled to places including Jiangsu province and the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, as well as Australia.

"No matter when someone comes to me with a technical problem, I will go to help," she said.

She said that over the years she and her teams' achievements in scientific research came from the practical experience on farmers' lands.

The team has promoted 36 agricultural techniques, helped 17 places develop and manage mountainous areas, bred nine unique fruit varieties and published over 300 academic theses, according to Hebei Agricultural University.

The team was recognized as a National Worker Pioneer, a title given by the All-China Federation of Trade Unions for International Labor Day.

"The honor only represents the past. I will keep up my research on growing apples, walnuts and red raspberries. I'll continue to green barren mountains with science and technology and help fruit growers have better yields," Guo said.