Japan to implement phosphorus-efficient paddy in NepalThe two countries have signed a pact on research collaboration in the farm sector.
Scientists have identified the gene, also known as PSTOL1, which enables paddy plants to produce 20 percent more grain by increasing the uptake of phosphorus, an important, but limited, plant nutrient.
Masa Iwanaga, visiting president of the Japan International Research Centre for Agricultural Sciences, told the Post they had focused on two research areas in Nepal—rice and buckwheat.
“This gene absorbs phosphate from the soil even in phosphorus-deficient lands, allowing farmers to grow more paddy,” he said. “This research is possible in Nepal.”
Iwanaga is a member of the delegation led by Takami Nakada, deputy director general for international affairs at the Minister’s Secretariat, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan, which is currently visiting Nepal.
Nepal and Japan on Wednesday signed a memorandum of understanding on developing Nepal’s agricultural sector through research collaboration.
Scientists say that phosphorus is a non-renewable natural resource, and the sources of most phosphorus fertilisers are running out.
“This gene was found in the traditional rice variety Kasalath from India. It helps paddy plants to grow well in soils low in phosphorus," Iwanaga said.
The gene was initially discovered by Matthias Wissuwa from the Japan International Research Centre for Agricultural Sciences. “We have also introduced this gene in Africa,” he said, adding that it would help Nepali farmers greatly who mostly depend on chemical fertiliser, chiefly diammonium phosphate, the world's most widely used phosphorus fertiliser.
According to him, the second research collaboration will be in buckwheat.
“Buckwheat, which is mostly grown in Nepal’s highlands, is a highly nutritional and demandable crop, but productivity is not good. It’s an underutilised crop in Nepal," he said.
"We can jointly do research to increase productivity of buckwheat through cross-breeding. If Nepal can produce quality crops, it will be able to access the Japanese and global markets.”
According to the Ministry of Agricultural Development, Nepali farmers grow buckwheat on 10,510 hectares of land. Annual production amounts to 10,355 tonnes and yield is 0.98 tonne per hectare. It’s a major source of food in the high mountain region.
“Besides paddy and buckwheat, we would like to work on the promotion of Nepal’s rice wine, an alcoholic beverage fermented and distilled from rice that is traditionally consumed in Japan and Nepal,” he told the Post.
Nakada told journalists here on Wednesday that, based on a field study conducted in January, they have decided to help Nepal in developing the seed sector, producing skilled manpower, and promoting Japanese private investment in Nepal’s farm sector.
“Japanese scientists will come here and work jointly with the Nepal Agricultural Research Council,” he said. “In many areas we visited in January, farmers complained that they had been producing different varieties of vegetables, but they can’t get quality seeds.”
Nepal requested Japan to extend cooperation in the agriculture sector during Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali’s visit to Japan in November last year. Subsequently, Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono visited Nepal in January at the invitation of his Nepali counterpart Gyawali.
Japan has been supporting Nepal in various sectors including education, infrastructure, civil aviation and hydropower.
Tek Bahadur Gurung, executive director of the Nepal Agricultural Research Council, said that plant breeding would be one of the key areas where scientists of the two countries would work together.
Currently, the Japanese government is running four projects — Nagdhunga Tunnel Construction Project, Emergency Housing Reconstruction Project, Emergency School Reconstruction Project and Tanahu Hydropower Project — under the Japan International Cooperation Agency’s Official Development Assistance loan project.
Last year, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal and the Japan International Cooperation Agency signed an agreement for the implementation of a Rs1.51 billion project to improve safety and efficiency of air transport in Nepal.