Xu Jingyu had been growing corn and wheat for a dozen years, but never imagined his saline-alkali soils could produce 500 kilograms of grain per mu (about 0.07 hectare).
"Until last year, the average wheat production was only 200 to 300 kilograms per mu," said the 64-year-old Xu, who lives in Musanba village in Nanpi County, Hebei Province, where lands have been less productive due to the soil salinity.
Xu said that last year he began to grow wheat seeds, called "Xiao Yan 81," provided by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and adopted farming techniques suggested by the institution.
The land yield of wheat in Musanba village this year has already reached more than 450 kilograms per mu, and corn yields have reached about 600 kilograms per mu, according to Xu.
China accounts for a fifth of the world's population, but with less than 9 percent of its land arable, China's leaders have aimed to boost agriculture technology to ensure food supply.
In July, President Xi Jinping said during a tour of rural areas in central China's Hubei Province that the country's food security issue could only be solved by the country itself, indicating that the country should not rely on imports for its food supply.
Analysts say recent moves, such as the initiatives by the Chinese Academy of Sciences in the Bohai Bay Rim area, which includes Musanba Village, reflect China's determination to tackle the problem by promoting agriculture innovation.
"China now has 1.8 billion mu of arable land. The key to solving China's food security problem is not to increase arable land, but to boost agriculture innovation to increase food output," said Liu Xiaojing, a researcher at the Center for Agricultural Resources Research at the Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
According to statistics released by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, China has more than 40 million mu of medium- and low-yield fields, and 10 million mu of saline soils in four provincial-level divisions, including Hebei, Shandong, Liaoning, and Tianjin in the Bohai Bay rim area.
If technology can overcome problems such as barren soil and the lack of freshwater resources, the potential of these lands could be huge, said Liu.
Researchers estimate that by 2020, the Bohai Bay rim will have the potential to increase crop production by 5 billion kilograms per year.
Back in 2008, Liu and a group of researchers started research on brackish water irrigation technology in Nanpi County. The wheat output that year reached 300 kilograms per mu, and in 2009 the yield rose to 350 kilograms per mu. Last year, the yield topped 500 kilograms per mu.
"Irrigation is important and the seeds were another crucial factor," Liu said.
The "Xiao Yan 81" mentioned by villager Xu was one type of wheat series cultivated by academician Li Zhensheng, a wheat breeding expert.
"Xiao Yan" is a hybrid of wheat and wheatgrass, which gives the new variety great saline-alkaline tolerance.
"The wheat production back then was only 200 kilograms per mu, but after using Xiao Yan 81, the wheat output this year reached 450 kilograms per mu," said villager Xu.
Liu looks forward to the outcome of the ongoing policy meeting, which opened on Saturday, during which the country's leadership is scheduled to outline a broad reform agenda. He said he hoped the new policy could inject vitality into China's agricultural development.