Japan’s Green Renaissance

Bulldozers clearing mountains of wreckage and rubble have been a common sight in Japans Tohoku region. But one restoration project in Miyagi prefecture is taking a more sensitive approach to the tsunami-devastated landscapes, going as far as clearing debris by hand, planting organic rice and choosing native flowers to beautify the area.

“We even pulled a car out of a paddy field just by human power,” says Tsubasa Iwabuchi, of Tohoku University, who is leading the Tohoku “Green Renaissance Project” on Sadasawa Jima, part of the Urato Islands in Shiogama Bay.

Read the rest of the story: Japans green renaissance gets business boost.

Science to the rescue – Rice in Japan may never be the same

Under a year since a huge tsunami inundated paddy fields in Japan with salty sludge, scientists are near to developing locally-adapted, salt-tolerant rice.

Following a Japan-UK research collaboration, a new method for marker assisted breeding is being used to slash the time it takes to isolate new traits such as salt tolerance. Details of the new method, called MutMap, will be published in Nature Biotechnology on Sunday so they can be used by scientists and breeders worldwide to dramatically accelerate crop breeding.

“The beauty of the new method is its simplicity,” said Professor Sophien Kamoun, co-author on the paper and Head of The Sainsbury Laboratory on Norwich Research Park.

“By working with cultivars favoured by farmers and already adapted to local conditions, the MutMap method will enable plant scientists and breeders to develop new crop varieties in nearer a year rather than five to ten years.”

The new technique also takes advantage of the speed at which sequencing can now be done to screen plant mutants for valuable trai

Read the rest of the story: Science to help rice growers affected by Japans tsunami.

Japan’s Damaged Rice Culture

The March 11, 2011 earthquake and nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan have wrought havoc on the long-term prospects for the country’s storied rice industry. let alone doing short-term damage, according to a report by the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute.

The Great East Japan Earthquake, as it is known, is believed to have been the most powerful ever to have hit Japan, triggering a devastating tsunami that generated 40-meter waves, washing deep inland and causing meltdowns at three reactors at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Complex. Some 15,844 people were confirmed dead and 3,394 people have been listed as missing.

Although the disaster spurred evacuation of farmland in a 30-km radius around the nuclear plant, consumer confidence in domestic rice has fallen in a much larger area and cut into a system in which the country has heretofore been able to maintain the permanent sovereignty of its international agricultural trade policies and agreements, with high tariffs keeping Japanese farmers self-sustaining, according to the report.

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Rice Farmers in Japan Set Tougher Radiation Limits for Crops

Rice farmers near Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant will impose radiation safety limits that will only clear grains with levels so low as to be virtually undetectable after government-set standards were viewed as too lenient, curbing sales.

Farmers now completing the harvest in areas affected by fallout from the nuclear station are struggling to find buyers amid doubts about cesium limits, which are less stringent than in livestock feed. No samples have been found exceeding the official limits.

A self-imposed near-zero limit on radiation in rice may help spur sales from Fukushima, which was the forth-largest producer in Japan last year, representing about 5 percent of the total harvest. The prefectural office of Zen-Noh, Japan’s biggest farmers group, plans to only ship cesium-free rice to address safety concerns, as does the National Confederation of Farmers Movements, which includes about 30,000 producers nationwide.

Read the rest of the story: Rice Farmers in Japan Set Tougher Radiation Limits for Crops.