Potatoes may soon join rice as a staple diet for China's 1.3 billion people as the nation searches for alternative crops to deal with a sharp decline in farmland, state press reported Thursday.
China is facing increasing difficulties in feeding its massive population partly due to the widespread conversion of its farming areas into industrial zones and residential areas, as well as the impacts of global warming.
Potatoes, which can grow in dry areas not suitable for rice, are now being seriously looked at as a way to get more food from a smaller area, the China Daily said, citing a study from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.
"A slight increase in yield for each hectare of land used in potato farming would help meet the huge food demand of the growing population," the academy's vice president, Qu Dongyu, was quoted as saying.
"Potato is definitely the most nutritious staple food. It is rich in vitamin C, B, proteins and minerals."
China's arable land has shrunk to 122 million hectares (300 million acres), just above the government-set "red line" of 120 million hectares that is deemed necessary to feed the country's people, state press reported last month.
Also to deal with this problem, China last month suspended a plan to plant millions of trees across the country amid worries they would have taken over the precious farmland.