Japan’s R&D boost for better crop production

japan fruit-romanov pixabayJapan’s Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry is planning to intensify research with the aim of developing heat-resistant and drought-tolerant crops starting this fiscal year

As part of a broader plan to counter the effects of global warming, the ministry said that it hopes to develop 10 or more new variants of rice, vegetables, fruit and other produce in the next five years.

According to the ministry, US$3.34mn in funds will be allocated to the research in 2015-16, and they intend to secure the same amount of money every year for the remaining four years leading up to 2019. Institutions and universities to be involved in the research will be decided by the end of this month.

The government is currently drafting a climate change adaptation plan, which they intend to adopt as a national strategy to reduce disaster risks stemming from global warming. The plan, which will be ready around August, will entail development of the new variants.

Experts on an Environment Ministry panel have given their prediction that by the end of this century, the annual mean temperature in Japan will be a maximum of 4.4ºC higher than it was at the end of the 20th century. Temperature rise is deemed inevitable and difficult to control, even if measures to reduce greenhouse emissions are implemented globally.

The Agriculture Ministry, in drafting its plan, is assuming the mean temperature will rise two degrees. They intend to quantify how much damage it will have on the yield and quality of the nation’s staple crops, and develop new variants based on the assessment to lower the risks to less than 50 per cent of what they foresee.

The ministry also intends to support projects aimed at better production technology, such as those related to optimising the use of water in crop fields. Enhancing the water-retention capacity of farmlands will be an effective measure to counter flood disaster risks due to heavy rainfall or other causes.

Furthermore, quarantine inspections at ports and airports will be strengthened to deal effectively with invasive alien pests such as flies that originate in Southeast Asia and may infest various kinds of fruit.

The ministry added that development of new variants will take time, but also explained that without it ‘there is a risk of being too late if we let global warming cause some disaster before we have initiated the research’.

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