Xiji, the hometown of potatoes, is the only county in the Ningxia Hui autonomous region that has not escaped poverty. In the golden autumn season, every family here gets busy harvesting their "golden eggs", otherwise known as potatoes.
The crop, affectionately called "yangyu eggs" (yangyu being another name for potatoes), has become a "rich egg" for some of the people living there.
Agriculture had reached a fairly high state of development in Xiji county dating to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). People were encouraged to grow crops, especially yangyu. In the 11th year of Xianfeng (1861), the Xiji county gazetteer said that reclaimed wasteland was being promoted and yangyu cultivation accounted for 20 to 30 percent of the crop.
Over the long term of growing potatoes, farmers have accumulated rich experience in planting. Varieties of potatoes planted over the years include Mayu, Big Ipomoea Batatas, and Deep Eye Sockets. After nearly 300 years of cultivation, a representative Xiji potato gradually emerged — the red potato.
The local government of Xiji regards potato cultivation as a typical way for farmers to get out of poverty, and it actively guides farmers to adjust planting structure and scale on a scientific, orderly path to help increase the harvest and farmers' incomes. They follow the path of growing, export, starch production and staple food development to increase the value of the potato industry.
Xiji county has erected three virus-free cultivation centers that produce 50 million metric tons of grain every year, while expanding potato cultivation bases. Xiji has supported 13 potato cooperatives and devoted around 67 million square meters to potato growing.
In February 2004, Xiji county was named the Hometown of Potatoes in China. On Nov 15, the Xiji potato was added to the catalog of Chinese agricultural brands.
The potato planting area in Xiji county reached more than 560 million square meters this year, with a total output of 1.5 million tons valued at 1.5 billion yuan ($223 million).
Zhou Jiaxin contributed to the story.
(Video provided to China Daily)