Working through COVID-19

MIDST-CZO was affected since January 2020 by restrictions due to COVID-19. Planned knowledge exchange activities in China in 2020 were replaced by online activities. From April 2020, UK partners have been working remotely from home.
NERC/Newton Fund provided a no-cost extension to the project of 12 months, so it will now complete in March 2022. We were still active over 2020, with updates shown in the other website articles.

Research Progress
A desk study on decision support tool (DSTs) use in China’s agriculture found over 400 working examples. Weaknesses included a focus on yield, without consideration of environmental and economic impacts. The data are analysed and a paper will be submitted this year by the University of Aberdeen team.

The science and policy needs for DST use in China were further informed by KE surveys conducted on several visits to China and via online surveys. This work is currently being written up in several papers led by the University of Glasgow team. A new online survey has been commissioned (see later) to build on previous work.

Rothamsted Research and their partners in China worked with a DST to predict the interaction between soil carbon storage and crop yield for the Loess Plateau. This couples agricultural output with environmental impacts. Further work needs face-to-face interaction, but a paper is expected this year.

Dr Boyi Liang from Peking University completed a visiting fellowship at the University of Exeter that was aligned to MIDST. He continues to conduct CZO research complementary to the project and produced a paper using neural networks to predict crop yield.

A new postdoctoral scientist will join the team at the University of Exeter in 2021 to bring together agricultural, environmental and economic modelling to drive a new class of DSTs.


Research continued at the Peri-Urban CZOs. Nanjing University and Leeds University furthered their partnership with joint PhDs as part of the Belt and Road Initiative. Chemical (Queens University Belfast) and microbial (Sheffield University) analyses continues with some delays due to restricted lab and field access. A CSC funded PhD student working at the University of Sheffield for 1 year is exploring fertiliser impact, including the use of composted manure on environmental impacts.