Have you heard of duck farming? Imagine adorable ducklings waddling carefree through the rice fields. Let us introduce you to the world of aigamo, or duck farming–a traditional way to growJapanese rice with ducklings.
What is aigamo farming?
Developed by the Japanese farmer Takao Furuno, the aigamo method of rice farming taps on the natural abilities of ducks. Aigamo (合鴨) refers to ducklings that are a cross-breed between two different species of wild ducks, kamo (鴨) and domestic ducks (家鴨). Reared on the farms where they will eventually work, these young ducklings are introduced into the rice paddy fields a few weeks after the seedlings are planted. This method of rice cultivation is known as aigamo nouhou (合鴨農法).
What are the benefits of aigamo farming?
Known as helpful “little farmers”, the ducks act as natural herbicide or insecticide by expertly deovuring pests like weeds and insects that pose a threat to rice production.
Additionally, their organic waste serves as a superb natural fertilizer, enriching the fields with essential nutrients. Their daily movements help to loosen the soil, optimizing oxygen circulation and enhancing the nutrition absorbed by the seedlings. This sustainable farming approach substantially reduces costs by minimizing the need for excessive fertilizers and pesticides.
Moreover, the introduction of the ducklings boosts the farmers’ manpower and productivity by reducing the number of hours spent manually weeding. As a result, the farmers can allocate their time and energy towards other vital farming tasks, thus maximizing efficiency.
The ducklings also help with the growth of the rice seedlings in other ways. For example, when the ducklings gently peck at the rice stalks, they help the stalks develop resistance against harsh weather and physical phenomena, fortifying the plants’ overall strength.
In return, the farmers ensure that the ducklings are protected from the weather and their predators so they can support the rice cultivation in a safe environment.
When the rice grains start to emerge and the ducklings grow bigger, the ducklings are moved out of the rice fields. The eggs and meat produced by these thriving ducklings contribute to the farmers' overall output and diversify the farms' agricultural production, further enhancing their livelihoods.
A sustainable farming method for the future
Aigamo farming produces delicious organic rice through a traditional method that has been enhanced through ongoing innovation. This ecologically-modeled, sustainable rice-growing method creates an ecosystem where the ducks and natural elements work together harmoniously to optimize the rice cultivation cycle.
Do you know that aigamo farming has gained popularity internationally? This integrated rice-duck farming method is not only practiced in Japan but also in other countries like India, Vietnam, Malaysia, and China. In an interestingcase study, one American farmer introduced aigamo farming to his farms in Vermont in the U.S.
Interested in finding out more about traditional farming techniques in Japan? Check out our guide“From Farm to Table and Rice to Peanuts: Experience Two Traditional Farming Techniques in Japan”!
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