A group of researchers recently visited the town of Yosano in Japan to find out first-hand from Japanese rice growers about a new approach to rice agronomy that makes irrigated production more environmentally friendly, requiring less water and fewer applications of nutrients, such as nitrogen.

The group included Patricia Guzmán, technical manager for Colombia´s National Rice Growers Federation (Fedearroz, its acronym in Spanish); Luis Armando Castilla, a researcher and expert in technology transfer with Fedearroz; Eduardo Graterol, executive director of the Latin American Fund for Irrigated Rice (FLAR); and Nelson Enrique Lozano, coordinator of the Group for Environmental Management of Climate Change in Colombia´s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MADR).

All are partners in a project called Development and Adoption of a Low-Input Rice Production System for Latin America, which involves rice genetic improvement and the use of advanced crop management technologies. Launched in 2014, the project is a result of close collaboration between Colombia and Japan and is funded through the Science and Technology Research Partnership for Sustainable Development (SATREPS) by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST).

From Japan, a new approach to agronomy for strengthening the rice sector

The management practices used for irrigated rice in Colombia and other Latin American countries require significant changes, particularly with respect to the use of water and fertilizers, if the sector is to adapt successfully to the impacts of climate change. In contrast, some Asian countries, such as Japan, are already far along in adopting improved agronomic practices.

Hence the importance of the visit by researchers from Colombia, which took place in May 2016. The group was received by Norio Yamaguchi, a representative of PS Solutions Corp.; Toma Yamazoe, mayor of Yosano town; Kensuke Okada, professor at the Postgraduate School of the Faculty of Agronomy at the University of Tokyo; Kiyoshi Honda, representative of the International GIS Center at Chubu University; and Satoshi Ogawa, a scientist with the Agrobiodiversity Research Area at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

The group of researchers learnt about a project on precision agriculture, which involves the use of e-kakashi, a new and promising IoT (Internet of Things) technology for crop management. The system collects data via wireless sensor networks during the different stages of crop growth, including the environmental variables that determine crop development, and then transmits the data in real time. The data are next analyzed with the aid of the tool´s high-capacity data storage platform, better enabling users to monitor crop growth, develop recommendations, and make decisions.

This visit was preceded by other exchanges between Colombian and Japanese experts carrying out research and training in both countries as part of the project. One participant, Tadashi Chosa, a professor at the University of Tokyo, visited Colombia in February 2016 to share developments with a new system for monitoring rice yields at harvest. Such exchanges are helping advance the project toward its primary goal, which is to help farmers and the rice sector as a whole become more productive and competitive through genetic improvement and the use of precision agriculture technologies for better crop management.

To complement work with the new and promising approach to agronomy, project researchers in Japan and Colombia will focus their efforts over the next three years on developing rice varieties tolerant to drought and low nitrogen. The project will also have an important training component, in which Colombian and Japanese researchers will share knowledge and mutually strengthen their capacities.

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