Japanese Experts and Pesticides
September 24, 2007, 1:31 am
Filed under: Agriculture

Japanese Experts and Pesticides

By Moeun Chhean Nariddh

 

Visiting agricultural expert Une Ukata said recently that farmers no longer need to use pesticides or fertilizers and can produce a similar yield with pesticide-free alternative approaches.

Japanese farmers are starting to realize the damage resulting from their excessive applications of pesticides and are now beginning to develop or utilize alternative methods which do not require poisonous chemicals, he said.

Une Ukata, a Japanese agricultural extension officer, said that after 15 years of field work and research with Japanese farmers he has discovered that farmers do not need pesticides and chemical fertilizers. He cited water as the main factor in crop cultivation.

“The important thing for agriculture is water, but not fertilizer or pesticide,” he explained, adding that the high yield of Japanese agriculture can be attributed to the well organized irrigation system established a long time ago.

During a week-long working visit to Cambodia, Une visited a number of districts and found only 10 brown plant hoppers in one clump of rice, compared with Japan where statistics show 100 times more.
He said fertilizers of course help upgrade the growth of crops, but that the more beautiful the crops look, the more insects they will attract. Pesticides will kill both harmful insects and useful predators, and will deposit toxic substances in the fruits that people eat. Worse still, much more deleterious creatures will follow without enough enemies to thwart them.

The agricultural expert discovered Cambodia to have a balance between harmful and useful insects, unlike Japanese paddy fields where destruction of the balance is irreversible. He said before there were a lot of fish and useful predators in the Japanese rice fields, which no longer exist. He was surprised to see that the Cambodian agro-environment is still well preserved as was 20 or 30 years ago in Japan.

“I think the Japanese farmers will feel nostalgic when they see the situation in Cambodia, and I hope the experience that the Japanese farmers have undergone will help problems in Cambodia,” said Une.

The agricultural extension officer recommended alternative approaches for Cambodian farmers including:

  • Applying more manure and fewer chemical substances,
  • Keeping water in the fields for 40 days so that useful water animals can live there,
  • Plowing deeper into the soil to improve its quality
  • Transplanting rice with good rice seedlings less densely.
  • In addition, he suggests that farmers carefully monitor their fields and discuss problems with other farmers to trace new approaches for improvements. He said it is also the responsibility of local extension workers, concerned NGOs, and international organizations to cooperate with farmers in dealing with their problems.

Mr. Une said that in Japan farmers discuss why this and that fields are different and each farmer will show the characteristics of their own fields. “And the extension workers don’t know this,” he stressed.

Through dialogue, he said we can learn about the names of new insects and quantities of natural enemies in the fields. Extension workers can also give advice to farmers on acceptable levels of pesticides and or whether pesticides are required. He recommended that the Cambodian farmers not use pesticides stating that “they are lucky to start with the new approach while…their fields [are] still in good condition.”

The agricultural expert said if there are harmful insects but they only cause slight destruction, the application of pesticides should be avoided.

To check whether the fields are infested with natural enemies, Mr. Une uses a piece of square board called an “insect watching board” and hits clumps of rice so that insects will fall off onto the board, which is a method that is beginning to enjoy wide use by Japanese farmers. Now about 12,000 blue boards designed by Une are being used by Japanese farmers.

The agricultural expert’s 15 years experience has prompted him to publish two books, one on different kinds of insects in paddy fields and the other on how to grow rice with reduced pesticides. He said the books are a compilation of ideas of the Japanese farmers with whom he has been working.

Une concurred with Dr. Lo Sunly, a Khmer expert in crop protection, who in a seminar at the Department of Agronomy indicated that Cambodia’s insect problem is with vegetables rather than rice.

On a working tour of some villages on the Tonle Bassac, Dr. Lo discovered that a number of farmers have been forced to halt production of certain crops in the wake of their failure to rescue crops from destruction by insects and rodents.

Recalling the regret Japanese farmers have experienced from the heavy use of pesticides, Une expressed great surprise to hear that his government has donated poisonous chemicals to Cambodia. He said Diazinon, one of the three types of the donated pesticides, is no longer applied in Japan.

The agricultural extension officer said Japan is planning to provide much assistance to Cambodia in the field of agriculture, but that his government does not know what Cambodian farmers want.

“I guess the Japanese government does not understand how much its farmers regret using too much pesticide,” he said, adding that his government’s policy is still encouraging the use of chemicals.

“I regret we’re not strong enough to influence the government to reduce pesticide use,” Une lamented.

He said that upon returning to Japan he wanted to make recommendations to the Japanese government regarding donations to Cambodia.

Une’s conclusions coincided with Prof. Kao Tasaka’s assertion that alternative rice production practices can replace poisonous chemical methods if farmers are instructed properly in appropriate methodologies.

Phnom Penh Post, Issue 2/21, SOctober 8 – 21, 1993
© Michael Hayes, 2000. All rights revert to authors and artists on publication.
For permission to publish any part of this publication, contact
Michael Hayes, Editor-in-Chief
http://www.PhnomPenhPost.com – Any comments on the website to
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