PRODUCER SPOTLIGHT: Doi Farm - Eco-Friendly Approach to Japanese Rice Farming in the Face of Global Warming
Doi Farm is striving to build a flourishing eco-friendly rice farm to produce organic, safe, and premium rice products, even as global warming threatens rice farming in Japan.
Doi Farm takes an eco-friendly approach to rice farming by combining rice cultivation with raising pigs called "Kanbiton." This joint management approach allows waste products, which would normally be discarded, to be recycled back into the farm.
Changes due to global warming have put increased pressure on rice farming in Japan, which also faces ever worsening shortages of farmers as the Japanese population shrinks. In this bleak atmosphere, Doi Farm is a ray of hope showing a path to continuing to cultivate rice in a changing landscape, while protecting the natural ecosystem at the same time.
Global Warming Threatens Rice Farming on Kyushu
The Doi Farm is located in Nagasaki on the southern island of Kyushu. Not only in Nagasaki, rice farmers across Japan are growing more concerned about rising temperatures leading to lower yields and poorer quality crops.
However, the changes due to climate change have had some of the most noticeable impacts in the south, particularly on the island of Kyushu. Heat, plus fewer sunlight hours and damage from typhoons, have led to years of poor harvest in the region.
Research centers across Japan have started to study ways to grow rice, which can cope better with the higher temperatures. One of those varieties is the “Nikomaru” variety grown by Doi Farms.
Heat Resistant Nikomaru Rice
The “Nikomaru” rice variety grown by Doi Farms is a relatively new strain of rice. It is prized for its large grain and soft texture, which makes it perfect for making Japanese rice balls (or "onigiri").
The “Nikomaru” rice variety attracted attention for receiving the highest ranking of “Special A” in national taste tests in Japan for 5 years in a row. The rank of “Special A” is the same rank held by the “Uonuma Koshihikari” rice variety from Niigata prefecture, which has long been considered Japan’s premium rice.
The Nikomaru rice variety was developed about a decade ago by the National Agricultural Research Center for Kyushu Okinawa Region. The rice variety was actually discovered by chance. The initial aim of the research project was to create a new type of rice that would produce a higher yield and have a fine grain appearance. It just happened that during the project, there were several hot years. The result was the “Nikomaru” variety, which is more tolerant of higher temperatures.
“Everything is a resource”
Even as the environment seems at odds with rice farming, the Doi Farm has worked to develop an eco-friendly approach to farming, which helps preserve and protect the natural environment. Doi Farm focuses on soil as the foundation of agriculture, believing that healthy crops grow in healthy soil.
To create rich, fertile soil for rice farming, Doi Farm relies on pig farming. The joint management approach, combining rice paddies and pig husbandry, reduces waste. At Doi Farm, they believe that “everything is a resource.” Products, which would normally be discarded, are actually recycled back into the farm. For example, compost from the pig barns is used to fertilize the soil in rice paddies, in place of chemical fertilizers. In turn, the husks left over from harvesting rice is used as feed and bedding for the pigs. Nikomaru rice makes up one third of the diet of the pigs. On average, it takes approximately 132 - 155 pounds of rice to feed a single pig.
Hope for Farmers in Japan
It is hard to imagine Japanese cuisine without rice. Rice is believed to have been cultivated in Japan for over 2,500 years. A meal in Japan feels lacking without a bowl of steaming rice.
Even as global warming threatens rice farming in Japan, new varieties of rice like “Nikomaru” grown by Doi Farm, offer hope that rice farming will continue to thrive in Japan. In addition, the eco-friendly farming approach of Doi Farm will help ensure that the soil and natural environment will be protected for future generations of rice consumers in Japan - and around the world.
Learn more about Doi Farm at http://kanbiton.jp/
See more photos of Doi farm at http://kanbiton.jp/gallery/gallery.php
Article written by Jessy LeClair. Notes from Jessy:
"While researching about Doi Farms, I felt impressed by the collaborative spirit between Japanese researchers and farmers, both working together to preserve and protect rice farming in Japan. I was also amazed to learn that Japanese customers can taste the difference between the rice varieties in Japan. I guess I am a rice amateur. I only know basic differences, like short and long grain, or basmati and sticky rice. It makes me excited to try the Nikomaru rice, while trying to deeply savor its specific texture and taste!"