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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Japanese Experts and Pesticides

Japanese Experts and Pesticides

Japanese Experts and Pesticides

Visiting agricultural expert Une Ukata said recently that farmers no longer need

to use pesticides or fertilizers and can produce a similar yield with pesticide-free

alternative approaches.

Japanese farmers are starting to realize the damage resulting from their excessive

applications of pesticides and are now beginning to develop or utilize alternative

methods which do not require poisonous chemicals, he said.

Une Ukata, a Japanese agricultural extension officer, said that after 15 years of

field work and research with Japanese farmers he has discovered that farmers do not

need pesticides and chemical fertilizers. He cited water as the main factor in crop

cultivation.

"The important thing for agriculture is water, but not fertilizer or pesticide,"

he explained, adding that the high yield of Japanese agriculture can be attributed

to the well organized irrigation system established a long time ago.

During a week-long working visit to Cambodia, Une visited a number of districts and

found only 10 brown plant hoppers in one clump of rice, compared with Japan where

statistics show 100 times more.

He said fertilizers of course help upgrade the growth of crops, but that the more

beautiful the crops look, the more insects they will attract. Pesticides will kill

both harmful insects and useful predators, and will deposit toxic substances in the

fruits that people eat. Worse still, much more deleterious creatures will follow

without enough enemies to thwart them.

The agricultural expert discovered Cambodia to have a balance between harmful

and useful insects, unlike Japanese paddy fields where destruction of the balance

is irreversible. He said before there were a lot of fish and useful predators in

the Japanese rice fields, which no longer exist. He was surprised to see that the

Cambodian agro-environment is still well preserved as was 20 or 30 years ago in Japan.

"I think the Japanese farmers will feel nostalgic when they see the situation

in Cambodia, and I hope the experience that the Japanese farmers have undergone will

help problems in Cambodia," said Une.

The agricultural extension officer recommended alternative approaches for Cambodian

farmers including:

  • Applying more manure and fewer chemical substances,
  • Keeping water in the fields for 40 days so that useful water animals can live

    there,

  • Plowing deeper into the soil to improve its quality
  • Transplanting rice with good rice seedlings less densely.
  • In addition, he suggests that farmers carefully monitor their fields and discuss

    problems with other farmers to trace new approaches for improvements. He said it

    is also the responsibility of local extension workers, concerned NGOs, and international

    organizations to cooperate with farmers in dealing with their problems.

Mr. Une said that in Japan farmers discuss why this and that fields are different

and each farmer will show the characteristics of their own fields. "And the

extension workers don't know this," he stressed.

Through dialogue, he said we can learn about the names of new insects and quantities

of natural enemies in the fields. Extension workers can also give advice to farmers

on acceptable levels of pesticides and or whether pesticides are required. He recommended

that the Cambodian farmers not use pesticides stating that "they are lucky to

start with the new approach while...their fields [are] still in good condition."

The agricultural expert said if there are harmful insects but they only cause slight

destruction, the application of pesticides should be avoided.

To check whether the fields are infested with natural enemies, Mr. Une uses a piece

of square board called an "insect watching board" and hits clumps of rice

so that insects will fall off onto the board, which is a method that is beginning

to enjoy wide use by Japanese farmers. Now about 12,000 blue boards designed by Une

are being used by Japanese farmers.

The agricultural expert's 15 years experience has prompted him to publish two books,

one on different kinds of insects in paddy fields and the other on how to grow rice

with reduced pesticides. He said the books are a compilation of ideas of the Japanese

farmers with whom he has been working.

Une concurred with Dr. Lo Sun-ly, a Khmer expert in crop protection, who in a seminar

at the Department of Agronomy indicated that Cambodia's insect problem is with vegetables

rather than rice.

On a working tour of some villages on the Tonle Bassac, Dr. Lo discovered that a

number of farmers have been forced to halt production of certain crops in the wake

of their failure to rescue crops from destruction by insects and rodents.

Recalling the regret Japanese farmers have experienced from the heavy use of pesticides,

Une expressed great surprise to hear that his government has donated poisonous chemicals

to Cambodia. He said Diazinon, one of the three types of the donated pesticides,

is no longer applied in Japan.

The agricultural extension officer said Japan is planning to provide much assistance

to Cambodia in the field of agriculture, but that his government does not know what

Cambodian farmers want.

"I guess the Japanese government does not understand how much its farmers regret

using too much pesticide," he said, adding that his government's policy is still

encouraging the use of chemicals.

"I regret we're not strong enough to influence the government to reduce pesticide

use," Une lamented.

He said that upon returning to Japan he wanted to make recommendations to the Japanese

government regarding donations to Cambodia.

Une's conclusions coincided with Prof. Kao Tasaka's assertion that alternative rice

production practices can replace poisonous chemical methods if farmers are instructed

properly in appropriate methodologies.

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