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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Farmer Gets The Salt Out

No salt required! Japanese farm grows tomatoes with algae.
A few weeks ago, I wondered aloud in this blog just how Japanese farmers were going to cope with the problem of their farmland being salted after the March 11, 2011 tsunami poured water from the Sea of Japan onto it. That blog is HERE.

It is a major problem, and one of which there does not seem to be a lot of mainstream media coverage on.

According to AP (American Press), who made some rough estimates back in April 2011, based on 2010's harvest yield in the tsunami-hit towns, at the most 8% of Japan's 4-million acres rice farm land has been affected by the tsunami, which is about 4% pf Japan's total rice population.  

Of course, that only talks about rice farmers. It also fails to take into account the problems of radiation in the Fukushima-ken (Fukushima Prefecture) area where the Dai-ichi nuclear facility nearly experienced a nuclear meltdown, but still spewed a lot of radioactive debris into the atmosphere (and thus into the soil).

While scientists are still mulling over solutions for teh radioactive land, there are solutions to the salted earth concern.

Solutions include digging up the soil and replacing it with clean soil... a massive and expensive proposition to say the least, and one that Japan is in the process of undertaking; other options the farmers are using is to wash the salt out of the soil—but even scientists say this could be a year-long proposition.

But one Japanese farm in Iwanuma-shi (City of Iwanuma) in Miyagi-ken (Miyagi Prefecture) has hit upon a radical new way of desalinating his farmland—bacteria.

Cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae) is typically found in seawater and sludge on the seafloor. But what is of great importance is that when the algae photosynthesizes, it consumes the salt in the water.

Sixty-two-year-old Japanese farmer Iizuka Etsuo (surname first), mixed the algae in with the  soil of his 1,000-square-meter farm that was damaged by the tsunami back in June 2011 and planted 400 tomato plants. As of August 20, 2011, he harvested some 4000 tomatoes.

According to Nishtsuji Kazuma (surname first), the 29-year-old president of My Farm, a Kyoto, Japan-based company that developed the algae method of desalination: "The new method uses sludge left on the farmland. We hope to use it on rice fields as well."

Farmer Iizuka extolls, "I'm happy the tomatoes grew better than expected. I want to make it a local brand."

While not enough to retire on, it does show that the algae process works, and Japan - It's A Wonderful Rife salutes the new method and the Japanese farmers  - all of them - making a go of things after all of the trouble of March 11, 2011.

Files by Andrew Joseph

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