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“Rice Column” vol.2 -“Stork Natural Rice”

2017.05.18 | Hyogo

Welcome to our column on rice. This is Kawamura.
In Japan, there is a vast variety of rice, each with its distinctive characteristics such as brand and location etc. 
This time, I would like to introduce to you the “Stork Natural Rice” brand.
Here’s the story behind this delicious rice cultivated by mother nature.

 

 

The Oriental White Stork once lived in Japan, became extinct in the skies of Japan.
The last wild stork disappeared from Toyooka in 1971.Toyooka city, Hyogo Prefecture began a captive breeding site and succeeded to reintroduced the storks for the first time in 2005.Nowadays, about 90 storks fly grandly in the skies of Toyooka.
For the Oriental White Stork to be reintroduced into wild, rich environment must be restored in which we welcome them. To preserve, restore and create the natural environment and the cultural environment to coexist with the storks of Toyooka, the citizens of Toyooka is working out Environment-Economy Strategies aimed towords town resonate with environment and economy in harmony.

 

 

They are carnivorous bird that eats frogs, fish, insects and even snakes. The storks are heavy eaters, eating around five hundred grams a day.

 

However, various changes were made to the environment to support people’s new lifestyles that prioritized economy and efficiency.
The large pine trees were deforested. In order to increase work-efficiency and allow for use of new machines like tractors, soil was built up to create higher mounded rice paddies that were able to dry more easily.

 

In addition, agricultural chemicals were introduced. Losing places to nest and prey to eat, the storks’ numbers decreased dramatically. Finally, in 1971, the last wild stork died in Toyooka and the Oriental White Stork disappeared from Japan skies.

 

In order to save the storks from extinction, efforts to breed them in captivity started in nineteen sixty five, prior to the death of the last stork in Toyooka.
However, for twenty-four years after the start of these efforts, not one chick could be born. Due to the buildup of agricultural chemicals in their bodies, storks had lost the ability to reproduce.

 

The turning point came when healthy, young storks were sent from the former Soviet Union. Genetically, they are the same species of bird.
Twenty five years later, the first chick was finally born.
In 2005, efforts began to release the storks back into the wild. Since then, the storks have continued to breed in the wild and there are now over 90 storks living free.

 

 

Put simply, these efforts in general aim to increase the amount of prey for storks. We need to restore the natural food chains of wetlands to regain a rich ecosystem. In addition, this needs to be a sustainable effort.

 

 

 

< Stork Friendly Farming >
This is a rice farming method that tries not to rely on chemical herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers. We call it the “Stork Friendly Farming Method”.
Currently, of the rice paddies in Toyooka, 366 hectares follow this farming method.
Because pesticides are not used, pests that can hinder the growth of rice can survive. However, other organisms that eat these pests can also survive such as frogs, dragonflies, and spiders. Because synthetic chemicals are not used, the rice paddies are able to regain and sustain their natural cycles. This is very similar to the farming that was done before the invention of agricultural chemicals, however there have been lots of innovations made in order to maximize the number of organisms that can survive in the rice paddies.

 

 

The Stork Friendly Farming Methods requires farmers to flood their rice paddies for a longer period of the year. This allows organisms to survive for longer periods.
In addition, delayed mid-season drainage allows tadpoles to turn into frogs so they can run away when water is drained from the paddies.

 

 

 

Now, their reintroduction back into the wild, the storks have established themselves as a part of Toyooka’s landscape once again.

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