High-Impact Research Achievements for 2017

The MAFF Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Research Council in collaboration with the agricultural technology association selects 10 research achievements every year with high-impact and significant contribution to society. The high-impact research achievements are selected from research outputs of national research institutes, public research institutes, universities and private enterprises published in newspapers. Seven researches from NARO were among the 10 research achievements selected for 2017.

Easy and efficient method of rice field water management using smartphone

The Institute for Rural Engineering, NARO has developed the first domestic system that allows remote control and automatic monitoring of water supply and drainage in rice paddy fields using smartphone or PC. Utilization of this ICT-based system in experimental rice fields showed about 80% reduction in working time related to water management and about 50% reduction in water consumption during rice cultivation from heading to harvesting. With this system, it is possible to achieve both saving labor in water management and efficient use of water resources. Read more.

Development of automated rice transplanter for labor saving of rice planting

Popularization of agricultural machines represented by tractors, combines, rice transplanter etc. has realized high speed and great labor saving in Japanese rice cultivation. On the other hand, the cultivated area per management unit is also increasing steadily. Among them, the majority is large-scale management area exceeding of about 10 Hectares. Hence further higher efficiency and labor saving are required. NARO has developed an automatic rice transplanter which enables even the beginners to do rice planting work as skilled operation. With the proprietary steering system,high speed turning and highly accurate straight line work can be achieved. It is possible to reduce the number of personnel required for busy farming season, and also it is expected to contribute to the expansion of the farming scale.Read more (Japanese only).

Discovery of the key gene for infection of rice blast fungus towards development of a new disease control method

Blast disease is an important disease that causes severe damage to rice cultivation worldwide. It is caused by a blast fungus which is a filamentous fungus (mold). Even in the overseas, damage to wheat is rapidly spreading. NARO, in collaboration with Iwate Biotechnology Research Center, Japan and the Biological Production Engineering Research Center, University of Tokyo discovered the gene "RBF1" which is the key to infection from the mold "blast fungus" that infect rice. Mutant Pyricularia oryzae without RBF1, cannot infect the rice plant due to its inability to suppress self-defense reaction of rice plant. If a substance that inhibits the function of RBF1 is found, then it is expected to lead to the development of a new method for controlling rice blast disease. Read more.

Web accessible digital soil map of Japan for efficient crop management

The Institute for Agro-environmental Sciences, NARO (NIAES) has developed a digital soil map with a scale of 1:200,000 showing the classification and distribution of soils in agricultural and non-agricultural lands nationwide. The website which can be accessed online starting today also includes an agricultural land soil map with a scale of 1:50,000 targeted mainly for farmlands. All information can be accessed as open data and distributed free of charge in a standard file format that can be handled by secondary users. In addition to utilization for agriculture such as fertilizer crop management and water management, it is also expected to contribute to administrative measures concerning the environment. Read more.

Development of 100% gluten-free rice flour bread

The Institute of Food Research, NARO (NFRI) in collaboration with Hiroshima University has developed a technology to manufacture 100% gluten-free rice read from basic ingredients such as rice flour, water, dry yeast, sugar, salt and butter, without using any additives or special equipment. The use of rice flour with less starch damage and devising the fermentation and baking processes facilitated bead-making with a specific volume of 4 mL/g or more which is comparable in consistency and volume to traditional wheat bread. This 100% gluten-free rice bread is suitable to people with wheat allergy or celiac disease, and is also expected to contribute in expanding domestic rice consumption. Read more.

Development of highly efficient packing machine for leafy vegetables

Generally, large scale expansion of marketing soft leafy vegetables is generally hindered by the high ratio of preparation and shipping of soft leafy vegetables to the overall working hours per area and the large burden to producers due to labor cost. In particular, preparation and packing of spinach involve cutting the roots cutting and removal of cotyledon and lower leaves to provide good-looking vegetables according to shipping standards and which requires almost 60% of the total work time so far. In collaboration with Kubota Corporation and Saito Agricultural Machinery Manufacturing Co. Ltd., NARO has developed a highly efficient packing machine suitable for soft vegetables such as spinach. Machines currently used for packing require 4 workers but the newly developed machine facilitates continuous packing even with two workers and 1.5X increase in work efficiency. Read more (Japanese only).

The birth of blue chrysanthemums towards promotion of flower industry

A collaborative research of NIVFS with Suntory Global Innovation Center Ltd. led to the birth of the world's first true blue chrysanthemum. Genetic modification involving two genes associated with pigmentation resulted in the formation of flowers with blue petals. This result facilitates the expansion of flower color variation in chrysanthemum, increase the potential value of the flowers, and open possibilities and new applications that may contribute to the expansion of the flower industry. Read more.