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A green strategy for accelerating the transformation of sustainable food systems in the Asia-Monsoon region

Manila, Philippines (17 October 2023) – Developing an international collaboration system and disseminating applicable agricultural technologies will contribute to the transformation of food systems in the Asia-Monsoon region, according to The Green Asia Project discussion at the 6th International Rice Congress.

The activity, led by the Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS) and the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO), centered on enhancing the production potentials and sustainability of the Asia-Monsoon region using technologies developed to transform the food systems in Japan. The discussion also explored the challenges and opportunities in implementing agricultural technologies in the Asia-Monsoon region.

The Asia-Monsoon region covers eastern, southeastern, and southern Asia where most smallholder farmers cultivate rice paddies under hot and humid climate conditions. The region commonly experiences similar climatic and other environmental stresses that significantly affect the productivity of farming activities. The Asia-Monsoon region accounts for 40% of the global non-CO2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture.

To help enhance agricultural productivity and sustainability through advanced technologies, Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries launched Strategy MIDORI in 2021.  MIDORI is a national strategy to achieve sustainable food systems transformation by enhancing production and ensuring the sustainability of the country’s agriculture, forestry, and fisheries sectors.

In line with Strategy MIDORI, the Green Asia Project aims to accelerate the application of agricultural technologies that enhance production potentials and ensure sustainable food systems in the Asia-Monsoon region through the development of an international collaboration system, dissemination of information, and joint research utilizing the network of JIRCAS and other national institutes.

The technology catalog would be a good start to know scalable technologies which were developed in Japan or through international collaboration over the past 10 years,”  said Yasuro Funaki, head of the Green Asia Project.

Green Asia Project has already published version 2 of their catalog which contains 31 technologies suitable for the Asia-Monsoon region, according to Dr. Funaki.

Japan has a long history of water management. During the Edo period (1603-1868), farmers applied manure in fields that had been temporarily drained for better rice growth and higher yield.

It is the same principle applied in current paddy water management technologies like alternate wetting and drying and midseason drainage, according to JIRCAS Senior Researcher Kazunori Minamikawa.

Alternate wetting and drying (AWD) is a method of controlled and intermittent irrigation where fields are allowed to dry for a few days before re-irrigation to reduce water usage.  Midseason drainage followed by intermittent irrigation (MiDi) is a conventional water management technique where intermittent irrigation is done weekly except during the heading stage. This helps avoid rice lodging and increases grain filling and yield.

The catalog’s cutting-edge technologies include smart agriculture, robotics, and advanced machinery.

Smart agriculture aims to intensify crop production through ultra-labor-saving techniques by enabling sensory functions and automation, according to Akane Takezaki, manager of the International Relations Section at NARO. Japan is currently exploring the use of robotic work systems and map-based variable rate fertilizer applicators. She hopes these specialized techniques can help increase yields in the Asia-Monsoon region through advanced mechanization.

Researchers at the Green Asia Project emphasized that integrated agronomic management is a promising option to help Asia-Monsoon countries increase rice productivity while being conscious of their climate impact.  However, some of the technologies in the catalog do not always produce the desired outcomes.

For example, AWD and MiDi in Asia-Monsoon countries such as Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia showed varying results, according to project researchers. This is one of the challenges of the Green Asia Project. “No one-size-fits-all,” said Dr. Funaki.

The next step is to increase the Green Asia Project’s reach by expanding the technology catalog and its network of research and technology partners who can contribute to building sustainable food systems in the Asia-Monsoon region, according to Dr.Funaki.

The Promoting the implementation of scalable agricultural technologies in the Asia-Monsoon Region event was organized by JIRCAS and NARO.