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