Yichang, a city in central China’s Hubei Province, is the main orange producing area in China and one of the cradles of orange on earth. In 2021, the output of orange in Yichang reached 4,046,900 tons, close to one tenth of the country’s total output.
Orange has become the top specialty and competitive agricultural industry in Yichang and a pillar industry for farmers to increase their income. Yichang orange industry mainly features three well-known varieties, which enjoy high reputation at home and abroad.
Attracted by Yichang’s fame as China’s “Orange City”, Thomas Ramsey, professor from College of Foreign Languages with China Three Gorges University, made a visit recently with his friend Tian Shidou to explore the culture and innovation behind Yichang’s orange, and feel its vivid and extraordinary development, according to Yichang Three Gorges International Communication Studio.
They made their first stop at Shuitianba Township, Zigui County, which is located at 30 degrees north latitude and on the banks of the Three Gorges of the Yangtze River.
Surrounded by green hills and gurgling rivers, the township is a most suitable area for oranges to grow. They visited Zheng Jiayu, a famous local orange photographer who has been following the industry’s development closely.
According to Zheng, local people, building on the characteristics of mountainous terrain, have learnt to use aerial ropeways and ground double-track orchard transport planes to replace manpower with machinery, so that local oranges could be shipped out of the region and even China at a quicker pace.
Besides, local people use grass cultivation techniques to develop green manure in fields and ladders to reduce the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, contributing to the region’s green development.
All the year round, one can see fresh oranges hang over trees in Yichang, making a unique scenery. This is partly thanks to Deng Xiuxin, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Engineering who devoted himself to orange research and cultivation.
Through scientific and technological innovation, Yichang can produce oranges all year round. Tom and Tian set their second stop at Jiuwan Creek orange seedling breeding base, the largest high-quality orange seedling germplasm bank in the Three Gorges Reservoir area.
The base is home to more than 100 top-quality domestic and foreign orange varieties. After several years of cultivation by researchers, the top-notch fruit varieties with the best fruit type, color and sugar content can finally be screened out.
Looking at the dizzying seedling varieties in the base, Tom and Tian couldn’t help but marvel at the huge scientific and technological input within these small fruits.
In Yichang, oranges are not only fruits, but also ingredients for cooking dishes and raw materials for deep processing. In Zigui County’s Qugu industrial park, oranges are processed into orange wine, cakes, vinegar, snacks, canned food and other products. Famous Hubei dishes like orange-flavored beef and stewed bacon are also served with preserved orange peel.
The orange industry has made full use of the fruit, from its flower, fruit, peel to pulp remaining, with zero material waster thanks to the industrial chain’s development.
At their exploration’s last stop, Tom and Tian were drawn by an old man who leveraged livestreaming to boost orange sales. The man named Zhou Gongshou is a fruit farmer in Zigui County. At 67 years old, he refused to retire like elders in urban areas, but insisted to keep learning new tricks, promoting local oranges via Internet technologies.
Nowadays, with the support of the local government and Internet platforms, many fruit farmers like Zhou have embraced a new life via the Internet. These efforts have expedited the sales of oranges out of the mountains, turning them into golden eggs for local farmers.
Source: Yichang Three Gorges International Communication Studio