Apocynum planting to protect and profit from saline soils in the Tarim River Basin, north-west China [China]

罗布红麻 and 罗布百麻 (Chinese)

technologies_1721 - China

Completeness: 80%

1. General information

1.2 Contact details of resource persons and institutions involved in the assessment and documentation of the Technology

Key resource person(s)

SLM specialist:
SLM specialist:

Rouzi Ahmatjan

Catholic University Ingolstadt-Eichstaett


SLM specialist:

Thevs Niels

World Agroforestry Center, University of Central Asia


Name of project which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
Sustainable Management of River Oases along the Tarim River, China (SuMaRiO / GLUES)
Name of project which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
Book project: Making sense of research for sustainable land management (GLUES)
Name of the institution(s) which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
Catholic University Ingolstadt-Eichstaett (KU) - Germany
Name of the institution(s) which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
International Centre for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF) - Kenya

1.3 Conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT

The compiler and key resource person(s) accept the conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT:


2. Description of the SLM Technology

2.1 Short description of the Technology

Definition of the Technology:

Plantation of Apocynum pictum and Apocynum venetum as protective and profitable indigenous plants - on soils made saline through irrigation of cotton without adequate drainage.

2.2 Detailed description of the Technology


The natural ecosystems in north-west China, especially in Xinjiang Province, are dominated by steppes, semi-deserts and desert. Riparian forests along the Tarim River Basin have been reduced and degraded by the expansion of irrigated agriculture since the 1950s. The main crop planted is cotton. In the arid temperate cold desert climate, precipitation is very low and evaporation high. The only water source for the region is the Tarim River. Xinjiang is being promoted to become the main cotton production area of China, especially in the upper reaches of the Tarim River, and reservoirs with a large irrigation infrastructure have been established. Farmers water their fields with flood and drip irrigation. But most of the fields have no drainage system. With the high evaporation and the capillary rise of the shallow groundwater, salts dissolved in the water accumulate on the soil surface and in the soil. This salinization makes the fields unusable for cotton production and are abandoned as farmers move on. These barren saline soils are prone to wind erosion, as almost no plants can grow on them. Large-scale desertification is the result.

Purpose of the Technology: To halt desertification the barren saline soils need to be protected by vegetation to avoid soil loss by wind. But if this can be done through vegetation that yields an income then the advantage is double: a win-win situation. Apocynum venetum and Apocynum pictum are indigenous and both are drought and salt tolerant. They are phreatophytes: deep-rooted plants that tap groundwater or the soil layer just above the water table. A.venetum and A. pictum are rhizomatous perennials – and importantly they are cash crops too. Fibre from the stems are used to produce textiles, though the extraction process is time and labor consuming. The advantage of apocynum yarn is that it has antibacterial properties. The leaves and flowers are also sold and used to produce tea which is a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that reduces blood pressure. On a per hectare basis, the stem generates a potential income of US$ 3,650, the leaves US$ 1,995, and the flowers US$ 1,815: nevertheless the market for apocynum products is small. In Xinjiang most of the apocynum plantations are under commercial large-scale farmers. They have the capital to deal with the costly establishment of apocynum.

Natural / human environment: Fields on which apocynum is sown should have a groundwater level not deeper than 2m. Nevertheless the soil should be well-drained: best is a sandy loam. Waterlogged, calcareous, clayey soils are not suitable. Apocynum can withstand periods of water inundation; however, prolonged submergence or waterlogging inhibits its growth. The topsoil under apocynum is often saline, reaching salt contents of up to 20%. Apocynum can grow on sites with a pronounced surface salinization, as long as the subsoil and the groundwater are not strongly salinized. There are two methods of planting apocynum: by seed or by vegetative means. While irrigation helps establishment and good yields, this is at a much lower level than for cotton. In conclusion, A.venetum and A. pictum provide profitable options on saline soils, grow with minimal irrigation, and protect the land against wind erosion.

2.3 Photos of the Technology

2.5 Country/ region/ locations where the Technology has been applied and which are covered by this assessment



Region/ State/ Province:

China / Xinjiang Province

Further specification of location:

Tarim River Basin

Specify the spread of the Technology:
  • evenly spread over an area
If the Technology is evenly spread over an area, specify area covered (in km2):



Boundary points of the Technology area: Location in China between 37°~46°N and 76°~104°E. Location in Tarim River Basin: 41°12'34.94"N and 84°19'28.19"E
In China the area of Apocynum vegetation, natural or artificial, amounts to 1,330,000 ha. One third to half of this area is located in Xinjiang, ie approximately 600,000 ha

2.6 Date of implementation

If precise year is not known, indicate approximate date:
  • more than 50 years ago (traditional)

2.7 Introduction of the Technology

  • naturally

3. Classification of the SLM Technology

3.1 Main purpose(s) of the Technology

  • reduce, prevent, restore land degradation
  • create beneficial economic impact

3.2 Current land use type(s) where the Technology is applied



  • Annual cropping
  • Perennial (non-woody) cropping
  • Tree and shrub cropping
Annual cropping - Specify crops:
  • fibre crops - cotton
  • wheat
  • Apocynum
Number of growing seasons per year:
  • 1

Longest growing period in days: 220Longest growing period from month to month: March to October with irrigation


Apocynum venetum and Apocynum pictum

Major land use problems (compiler’s opinion): Salinization, desertification, mismanagement of cotton monoculture, inadequate drainage under irrigation, abandonment of degraded land.

Major land use problems (land users’ perception): Water scarcity, salinization, land use rights.

Future (final) land use (after implementation of SLM Technology): Cropland: Ct: Tree and shrub cropping

Constraints of wastelands / deserts / glaciers / swamps: salt crust on the top soil layer and high salt content in the soil

3.3 Has land use changed due to the implementation of the Technology?

Has land use changed due to the implementation of the Technology?
  • Yes (Please fill out the questions below with regard to the land use before implementation of the Technology)


  • Annual cropping
Unproductive land

Unproductive land


Desertification: Wastelands, deserts, glaciers, swamps, recreation areas, etc

3.4 Water supply

Water supply for the land on which the Technology is applied:
  • mixed rainfed-irrigated

3.5 SLM group to which the Technology belongs

  • windbreak/ shelterbelt
  • improved plant varieties/ animal breeds

3.6 SLM measures comprising the Technology

vegetative measures

vegetative measures

  • V1: Tree and shrub cover
management measures

management measures

  • M1: Change of land use type

Main measures: vegetative measures, management measures

Type of vegetative measures: aligned: -graded strips *<sup>3</sup>, scattered / dispersed

3.7 Main types of land degradation addressed by the Technology

soil erosion by wind

soil erosion by wind

  • Et: loss of topsoil
chemical soil deterioration

chemical soil deterioration

  • Cs: salinization/ alkalinization
biological degradation

biological degradation

  • Bc: reduction of vegetation cover
  • Bh: loss of habitats
  • Bq: quantity/ biomass decline
  • Bs: quality and species composition/ diversity decline

Main type of degradation addressed: Et: loss of topsoil, Cs: salinisation / alkalinisation, Bc: reduction of vegetation cover, Bh: loss of habitats, Bq: quantity / biomass decline, Bs: quality and species composition /diversity decline

Main causes of degradation: soil management (Most fields have no drainage -> Increase of groundwater -> salinisation of soils), crop management (annual, perennial, tree/shrub) (Cotton monocultures), wind storms / dust storms (Duststorms, blow ou tof topsoil), droughts (It is an arid climate), population pressure (doubling the population during the last thirty years), land tenure (land belongs to the state), education, access to knowledge and support services (poorer farmers have less access to extension services)

Secondary causes of degradation: discharges (point contamination of water) (Non-point source pollution and drainage water discharge from the fields), disturbance of water cycle (infiltration / runoff) (Most fields have no drainage -> Increase of groundwater -> salinisation of soils), floods (Floods are necessary for the region (riparian forests)), poverty / wealth (family farmers are poorer than city dwellers)

3.8 Prevention, reduction, or restoration of land degradation

Specify the goal of the Technology with regard to land degradation:
  • restore/ rehabilitate severely degraded land

Main goals: rehabilitation / reclamation of denuded land

4. Technical specifications, implementation activities, inputs, and costs

4.1 Technical drawing of the Technology

Technical specifications (related to technical drawing):

Apocynum planted in a levelled field with strips of 8 to 18 cm height and 30 to 40 cm width with 40 cm space between each strip

Technical knowledge required for field staff / advisors: moderate (for regeneration and multiplication)

Technical knowledge required for land users: moderate

Main technical functions: improvement of ground cover, stabilisation of soil (eg by tree roots against land slides), promotion of vegetation species and varieties (quality, eg palatable fodder)

Secondary technical functions: reduction in wind speed

Aligned: -graded strips
Vegetative material: C : perennial crops
Number of plants per (ha): 20,000
Vertical interval between rows / strips / blocks (m): 0
Vertical interval within rows / strips / blocks (m): 0.4
Width within rows / strips / blocks (m): 0.3 to 0.4

Scattered / dispersed
Vegetative material: C : perennial crops
Number of plants per (ha): 60,000 to 70,000
Vertical interval between rows / strips / blocks (m): 0.3
Spacing between rows / strips / blocks (m): 0.3
Vertical interval within rows / strips / blocks (m): 0.3
Width within rows / strips / blocks (m): 0.3

Gradient along the rows / strips: 0%

4.2 General information regarding the calculation of inputs and costs

Specify currency used for cost calculations:
  • USD
If relevant, indicate exchange rate from USD to local currency (e.g. 1 USD = 79.9 Brazilian Real): 1 USD =:


4.3 Establishment activities

Activity Timing (season)
1. Manuring (3700 to 5000 kg/ha) and ploughing Before sowing
2. Site establishment/ preparation
3. Planting of seedlings/ root cuttings/ transplants most suitable seeding time is mid April to May or transplantation
4. Irrigation at establishment (10000-12000 m3/ha) After sowing

4.4 Costs and inputs needed for establishment

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Labour Site establishment/ preparation ha 2.0 18.7 37.4 100.0
Plant material Seeds ha 100.0 2.5 250.0
Plant material Seedlings ha 100.0 6.18 618.0
Other Manure ha 171.1 18.7 3199.57 100.0
Other Waterfee - 1.0 460.0 460.0 100.0
Total costs for establishment of the Technology 4564.97
Total costs for establishment of the Technology in USD -10868.98

Duration of establishment phase: 15 month(s)

4.5 Maintenance/ recurrent activities

Activity Timing/ frequency
1. irrigation and weeding labor 6 times
2. Fertilizer
3. Harvest labor at harvest
4. Transport after harvest

4.6 Costs and inputs needed for maintenance/ recurrent activities (per year)

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Labour irrigation and weeding labor ha 10.0 114.0 1140.0 100.0
Labour Harvest labor ha 1.0 359.0 359.0 100.0
Equipment Transport ton 1.0 11.0 11.0 100.0
Fertilizers and biocides Fertilizer (Phosporus) kg 150.0 4.12 618.0
Other Waterfee 1.0 2280.0 2280.0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology 4408.0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology in USD -10495.24

Machinery/ tools: hoe, shovel, tractor and plough

Costs were calculated for 2015, per hectare. Labour has become more expensive over the last few years. In the beginning (first two years) cultivation of apocynum is very labour and input intensive. After 1.5 to 2 years the plants can be harvested for the first time. The price for the products of apocynum (leafs and stems) are very high. Direct seeding as compared to vegetative propagation is the most labour-saving method to cultivate apocynum.

5. Natural and human environment

5.1 Climate

Annual rainfall
  • < 250 mm
  • 251-500 mm
  • 501-750 mm
  • 751-1,000 mm
  • 1,001-1,500 mm
  • 1,501-2,000 mm
  • 2,001-3,000 mm
  • 3,001-4,000 mm
  • > 4,000 mm
Specifications/ comments on rainfall:

Per year: 90 mm; Jan, Feb, Apr, May: 3 mm; Mar, Sept: 5mm; Jun: 33 mm; Jul: 18 mm; Oct: 0 mm; Dec: 8 mm

Agro-climatic zone
  • arid

Thermal climate class: temperate. cold desert climate

5.2 Topography

Slopes on average:
  • flat (0-2%)
  • gentle (3-5%)
  • moderate (6-10%)
  • rolling (11-15%)
  • hilly (16-30%)
  • steep (31-60%)
  • very steep (>60%)
  • plateau/plains
  • ridges
  • mountain slopes
  • hill slopes
  • footslopes
  • valley floors
Altitudinal zone:
  • 0-100 m a.s.l.
  • 101-500 m a.s.l.
  • 501-1,000 m a.s.l.
  • 1,001-1,500 m a.s.l.
  • 1,501-2,000 m a.s.l.
  • 2,001-2,500 m a.s.l.
  • 2,501-3,000 m a.s.l.
  • 3,001-4,000 m a.s.l.
  • > 4,000 m a.s.l.
Indicate if the Technology is specifically applied in:
  • not relevant
Comments and further specifications on topography:

Altitudinal zone: Altitude between 800 and 1300 m

5.3 Soils

Soil depth on average:
  • very shallow (0-20 cm)
  • shallow (21-50 cm)
  • moderately deep (51-80 cm)
  • deep (81-120 cm)
  • very deep (> 120 cm)
Soil texture (topsoil):
  • coarse/ light (sandy)
  • medium (loamy, silty)
Topsoil organic matter:
  • low (<1%)
If available, attach full soil description or specify the available information, e.g. soil type, soil PH/ acidity, Cation Exchange Capacity, nitrogen, salinity etc.

Soil fertility: low - medium

Soil drainage / infiltration: medium

Soil water storage capacity: medium - high

5.4 Water availability and quality

Ground water table:

5-50 m

Availability of surface water:


Water quality (untreated):

poor drinking water (treatment required)

Comments and further specifications on water quality and quantity:

Ground water table also < 5 m: Apocynum is a phreatophyte. The most productive sites of Apocynum venetum are found on a groundwater not deeper than 3 m with salt contets between 1g/l and 10g/l.

Ground water table 5-50 m: Apocynum pictum is mainly found on groundwater levels of 4-6m below surface with a maximum groundwater depth of 8 m. Apocynum is restricted to groundwater levels not deeper than 4 m below surface.

5.5 Biodiversity

Species diversity:
  • medium

5.6 Characteristics of land users applying the Technology

Market orientation of production system:
  • commercial/ market
Off-farm income:
  • less than 10% of all income
Relative level of wealth:
  • rich
  • very rich
Individuals or groups:
  • groups/ community
Level of mechanization:
  • manual work
  • mechanized/ motorized
  • men
Indicate other relevant characteristics of the land users:

Land users applying the Technology are mainly common / average land users

Difference in the involvement of women and men: Man are doing the hard work in the fields, women do more the harvesting

Population density: 10-50 persons/km2

Annual population growth: > 4%; 7%

5% of the land users are very rich and own 10% of the land.
20% of the land users are rich and own 30% of the land.
40% of the land users are average wealthy and own 30% of the land.
30% of the land users are poor and own 20% of the land.
5% of the land users are poor and own 10% of the land.

Off-farm income specification: The plantation of Apocynum brings a high income to the farmers.

Level of mechanization manual labour: harvesting

Market orientation of production system commercial/ market: Apocynum is planted for fibre, tea and medicinal products
Level of mechanization mechanized/motorized: field preparation

5.7 Average area of land used by land users applying the Technology

  • < 0.5 ha
  • 0.5-1 ha
  • 1-2 ha
  • 2-5 ha
  • 5-15 ha
  • 15-50 ha
  • 50-100 ha
  • 100-500 ha
  • 500-1,000 ha
  • 1,000-10,000 ha
  • > 10,000 ha
Is this considered small-, medium- or large-scale (referring to local context)?
  • medium-scale

< 0.5 ha: family farms

5-15 ha: state farms

5.8 Land ownership, land use rights, and water use rights

Land ownership:
  • state
Land use rights:
  • communal (organized)
  • leased
Water use rights:
  • communal (organized)
  • leased

All the land belongs to the state. Farmers have the right to use the land for 70 years.

5.9 Access to services and infrastructure

  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
technical assistance:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
employment (e.g. off-farm):
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
roads and transport:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
drinking water and sanitation:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
financial services:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good

6. Impacts and concluding statements

6.1 On-site impacts the Technology has shown

Socio-economic impacts


crop production


wood production


risk of production failure


product diversity


production area

Water availability and quality

demand for irrigation water

Income and costs

expenses on agricultural inputs


farm income


diversity of income sources



Other socio-economic impacts

market for apocynum fibre


market for TCM


Socio-cultural impacts

cultural opportunities


recreational opportunities


conflict mitigation


Livelihoods and human well-being


Ecological impacts

Water cycle/ runoff

water quantity


water quality


excess water drainage


soil moisture


soil cover


soil loss


soil crusting/ sealing


soil organic matter/ below ground C

Biodiversity: vegetation, animals

biomass/ above ground C


plant diversity


habitat diversity

Climate and disaster risk reduction

wind velocity


6.2 Off-site impacts the Technology has shown

groundwater/ river pollution


wind transported sediments


6.3 Exposure and sensitivity of the Technology to gradual climate change and climate-related extremes/ disasters (as perceived by land users)

Gradual climate change

Gradual climate change
Season increase or decrease How does the Technology cope with it?
annual temperature increase not known

Climate-related extremes (disasters)

Meteorological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
local rainstorm well
local windstorm well
Climatological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
drought well
Hydrological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
general (river) flood not well

Other climate-related consequences

Other climate-related consequences
How does the Technology cope with it?
reduced growing period not known

6.4 Cost-benefit analysis

How do the benefits compare with the establishment costs (from land users’ perspective)?
Short-term returns:


Long-term returns:

very positive

How do the benefits compare with the maintenance/ recurrent costs (from land users' perspective)?
Short-term returns:

slightly negative

Long-term returns:

very positive


In the beginning (first two years) the plantation of Apocynum is very labour and input intensive. After 1.5 to 2 yearsthe plants can be harvested for the first time. The price for the producst of Apocynum (leafs and stems) are very high.

6.5 Adoption of the Technology

If available, quantify (no. of households and/ or area covered):

No number on households

Of all those who have adopted the Technology, how many did so spontaneously, i.e. without receiving any material incentives/ payments?
  • 91-100%

100% of land user families have adopted the Technology without any external material support

Comments on spontaneous adoption: Most of the plantations are planted by large investing farmers. The farmers sell the products of Apocynum to the pharmaceutical companies for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

There is a little trend towards spontaneous adoption of the Technology

6.7 Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities of the Technology

Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view
Both species yield fibres and leaves for fiber production and the leaves for medicinal products or tea on considerable areas under the arid climate of Xinjiang Province, China, without intensive irrigation, because they use the groundwater as for example cotton. Furthermore, both species can withstand higher soil salinization levels than cotton.

How can they be sustained / enhanced? The plantations can be enhanced by analyzing the water consumption and the water use efficiency to apply only as much water to the plants as they need Not decreasing the yields.
Both species can provide an income to local people - fibre and leaves for medicinal products or tea - under conditions which are unfavorable to grow crops under irrigation.

How can they be sustained / enhanced? Promote apocynum on saline wastelands and subsidize the establishment of the plantations. Explore further markets and promote the products.
Through apocynum plantations wastelands are reclaimed.

How can they be sustained / enhanced? Highlight the potential to reduce wind erosion and ‘dust bowls’.

6.8 Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks of the Technology and ways of overcoming them

Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view How can they be overcome?
Difficult process to extract fibre from the stems. New technology needs to be developed.
Small market. New uses need to be explored to expand the market.
High investment in the beginning of the plantation. Planting of apocynum should be subsidized.

7. References and links

7.1 Methods/ sources of information

7.2 References to available publications

Title, author, year, ISBN:

N Thevs et al. (2012) Apocynum venetum L. and Apocynum pictum Schrenk (Apocynaceae) as multi-functional and multi-service plant species in Central Asia: a review on biology, ecology, and utilization.

Available from where? Costs?

Journal of Applied Botany and Food Quality 85, 159-167.

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