China and Pakistan recently established the Center for Agricultural and Biological Resources Research at Northwest A&F University, as part of China's bid to help countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative develop their agriculture sectors.
The main task of the center is to strengthen cooperation and exchanges between the two sides in agricultural and biological resources, and to develop biology disciplines, according to Li Xingwang, Party secretary of the university.
Since the BRI was proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, the university, headquartered in Yangling, Northwest China's Shaanxi province, has been expanding joint efforts with universities in the respective countries to deepen cooperation on agricultural development, by employing its unique strengths.
For example, scholars from the university managed to combat stripe rust, which was a serious problem affecting global wheat production for a long time.
Kang Zhensheng, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering and a director of the State Key Laboratory of Crop Stress Biology for Arid Areas at Northwest A&F University, who has been based in the arid areas of Northwest China for over three decades, led the team to treat wheat stripe rust.
Kang created "China's wheat stripe rust fungus source base comprehensive control technology system", which was applied in 12 provinces and municipalities in China, reducing stripe rust by 50 percent, preventing the loss of more than 2 billion kilograms of grain each year, and increasing annual income by 4 billion yuan ($583 million) across the provinces and municipalities.
Since the BRI was proposed, Kang and his team have been working with more than 10 countries and regions involved in the BRI such as Kazakhstan, Turkey and Ethiopia to collect and study the wheat stripe rust pathogen.
Since 2014, Northwest A&F University has worked with several universities in Kazakhstan to establish three agricultural science and technology demonstration gardens in different climatic regions of the country, and have introduced Chinese wheat, corn, potato and small grains there.
Other professors from Northwest A&F University are also working with experts from the Kazakhstan National Academy of Sciences.
Meanwhile, Hai Jiangbo, a 53-year-old associate professor at the university, has been doing investigative tours across the African continent for many years, covering 11 African countries. And together with 51 colleagues, he has shared with African counterparts China's rich experience in agriculture, horticulture, water conservation, food, electromechanics, forestry and business management.
In Cameroon, rice is one of the key imports. But due to historical reasons, there has not been major rice cultivation there. So Hai led a team to conduct integrated research on rice planting there. They undertook soil surveys, worked on fertilization, pest control and bird pest control, before finally achieving a harvest of 7 tons of rice per hectare in the local 2-hectare demonstration rice field.
Encouraged by the demonstration, local people then began to follow the Chinese model of rice production.
As BRI has gained popularity among people in these countries, many of them are showing interest in agricultural cooperation with China. For example, Northwest A&F University signed an agreement with the Belarus Academy of Agricultural Sciences in December.
In 2016, Northwest A&F University launched the Silk Road Agricultural Education Science and Technology Innovation Alliance, which currently has 76 universities and research institutes in 14 countries and regions as members.