Aigamo: Farming With Ducklings

The Aigamo integrated rice-duck pesticide-free farming method, which has existed in Japan since time immemorial, is coming back into the limelight, especially in the wake of a growing tendency towards natural farming

  • Aigamo: Farming With Ducklings
  • Aigamo: Farming With Ducklings
  • Aigamo: Farming With Ducklings
  • Aigamo: Farming With Ducklings

Aigamo is the name of a farming methodwhich utilises ducks, belonging to the Japanese Aigamo crossbreed, to keep the paddy fields clear of unwanted plants and parasites, without any herbicides or pesticides.
Ducks were first introduced to Japan as poultry from Mainland China in the Heian period (794-1185). Toyotomi Hideyoshi is claimed to have been the person who encouraged the use of ducks as natural repellents for insects and birds in the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1598). The technique became obsolete in the subsequent Edo period (1600-1867).
The practice was re-established in the town of Fukuno, Toyama prefecture, in 1985, as an attempt to preserve the ecosystem of the rice paddies by means of natural farming. It did not take long before the Aigamo integrated rice-duck pesticide-free farming methodmade the headlines and began to be implemented nationwide.
Ducklings are used first and foremost for weeding. Depending on the conditions of the paddy field, a 1,000m² area requires about 15 ducks. Furthermore, the omnivorous ducks feed on insects, worms and other sorts of vermin, keeping the paddy field clear of parasites.
Another point that should not be overlookedis that ducks are instrumental in enriching the water with oxygen by constantly stirring up the soil in the ricepaddy while swimming. The duckshelp the rice seedlings grow by eating both insects and weeds that get in the way. The movement also keeps the water at an optimal temperature for rice growth. Additionally, the duck droppings provide the rice crops with nearly all the essential nutrients.
The ducklingsare releasedintothe paddy field about one or two weeks after the seedlings have been planted. Ashelteris necessary forthe ducksto take refuge from rain. To warn offweasels, dogsand other predators, the fieldneeds toprotected by a fence around and atop. The quality and level of the water are monitored daily in order for the ducks to have sufficient swimming space and crushed rice is supplied for seventy days, until the rice ears come out. 
In spite of the numerous challenges,such as protecting the paddy fields and their dwellers from kites, crows and raccoon dogs, while making sure that the ducks do not escape, theAigamo methodis an effective, environment-friendly approach to weed and pest control in rice farming.

Author : Slowear Journal

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