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The impact of rural out-migration on arable land use intensity: Evidence from mountain areas in Guangdong, China

Liu, Guangsheng, Wang, Hongmei, Cheng, Yingxuan, Zheng, Biao, Lu, Zongliang
Land use policy 2016 v.59 pp. 569-579
adverse effects, agricultural land, arable soils, fertilizers, food security, labor, land use, multiple cropping, pesticides, China
Since the late 1990s, massive rural out-migration has had a significant impact on the utilization of cultivated land. However, the links between rural out-migration and arable land use intensity remain ambiguous. This paper expands the current theories on the relationship between migration flows and land use intensification and explains the underlying mechanism that arable land use intensity is fluctuating upward with the increase of rural out-migration. Panel data of 5 mountain cities in Guangdong Province from 1996 to 2012 is used to empirically examine the impact of rural out-migration on arable land use intensity and analyze the influence of rural out-migration income, land scale, GDP per capita and multiple crop index on arable land use intensity. Our results show that there is an inverted N-shaped relationship between rural out-migration and arable land use intensity. The positive effect of the productivity increase caused by the Household Responsibility System (HRS) is the main reason for the increase of arable land use intensity. Labor scarcity that results from the excessive emigration of rural labors leads to a decline in arable land use intensity. The added fertilizer and pesticide inputs or changes in crop type can ultimately compensate for the negative effect of labor scarcity and promote the improvement of arable land use intensity. In addition, over-intensive use of farmland has negative impacts on the ecological environment and national food security. Based on the empirical results of this paper, some policy recommendations are suggested, such as the transformation of the agricultural development mode for a less demand in rural labor, increasing the inputs of agricultural technique and capital instead of labor, raising the comparative benefit of agriculture to attract young rural labor for farming, cultivation of professional farmers, establishment of an agricultural supporting system and developing circulative agriculture.