Lake Kasumigaura Needs Organic Agriculture, But How?

“Only good things will come from the clean water that flows in the stream, when only good things are put into the water…”

Notes from a lecture by Mr. Uozumi Michio, Japan Organic Agriculture Association, on December 9, 2009 as part of Consumers Union of Japan’s seminar series about safe living, connecting food and agriculture with our daily lives.

Uozumi-san emphasized that humus is the most important organic material for livings things: “Let us create a movement to promote deep connections and affiliations with strong links between organic farmers, fishermen, forest workers, and consumers!”

Japanese people have had many historical experiences such as Ashio mining pollution, Minamata disease (methyl mercury) and serious health damage since the Meiji era. We should study and understand that the most important thing for the people is to preserve the natural environment of the forest, farm fields, rivers and the sea.

Uozumi-san pointed out that it is emphasized by the nuclear power industry that nuclear reactors do not discharge CO2, but the technology for proper disposal of nuclear waste has still not been developed. Nuclear power plants contribute to global warming by discharging heated water into the environment.

Prof. Katsuhiko Matsunaga of Yokkaichi University has shown how seaweed and algae – the forest of the ocean – can contribute to sustainable fishery and act as a large CO2 sink. Coastal regions and beaches are also important sources of biofuel.

Fulvic acid-Fe can increase phytoplankton and sea weeds by river mouths and along coasts. Fulvic acid-Fe -rich humus can protect the marine ecosystem and enrich fishing grounds.

Chemical fertilizer ingredients (N, P, K) are easily carried away from conventional rice fields, because the soil cannot preserve them. The chemical ingredients are delivered to rivers, ponds, lakes and the sea, and are also accumulating in the groundwater. Said Uozumi-san: “It is necessary to convert to organic agriculture.”

People living in the Lake Kasumigaura area in Ibaraki prefecture are using the water for drinking. Agriculture, forestry and fisheries must promptly be converted to organic practices and methods to protect the health of all livings beings.

Surplus nutrients in lakes and wetlands can increase the growth rate of harmful water weeds. The water quality deteriorates resulting in the decrease of fish and shellfish. Harmful chemicals can also accumulate in the human body.

Leaves from forests in nearby mountains can be collected and used to enrich composts and contribute to the healthy soil. Rice grown in fields with plenty of humus tastes very good!

Uozumi-san noted that reclamation of tidal flats leads to a number of environmental problems. The brackish water regions will lose their ability to function as a filter, and natural habitats and feeding grounds for waterfowl and other wild birds are lost. Concrete dams also contribute to a loss of the water purification function.

Organic farming should be expanded to avoid eutrophication and to enrich rivers and the coastal regions, and to keep N, P and K out of the groundwater. From now on, let us cooperate with consumers to convert to organic agriculture, with mountain region forestry and fisheries, said Uozumi-san.

Farm fields and rivers are enriched by humus flowing in the water originating from forests. This is good for the river basin region and the brackish water region.

Promote organic farming

Uozumi-san pointed out that humus consists of humic acid, humin, and Fulvic acid-Fe. Broad leaf trees contribute to making healthy humus and organic matter, with more than ten times as much Fulvic acid compared to conifers. In organic rice fields there are more phytoplankton and zooplankton. Also, the breeding levels of phototropic bacteria are higher, and Nitrogen (N2) is fixed.

Enjoy composting! Mix your kitchen garbage (vegetables and organic matter) with fallen leaves as a way to restore CO2 levels in the soil. We call it wakuwaku composting using waku boxes. It is fun for everyone! The Japanese word, wakuwaku, means to enjoy something and do it with enthusiasm. Elementary schools and junior high schools can let the children experience composting. This is an important educational experience to teach young students about organic farming, forestry and fishery projects, and promote a better understanding with a link to the daily food they eat.

Uozumi-san noted that a healthy mountain forest with a large biological diversity, and lots of fallen leaves that can be used for composting: “The forest is the mother of the earth.” Fields should have a large variety of crops. In Japan, projects are underway to help develop shellfish farming and oyster cultivation by planting broad leaves tree saplings in the forest regions upstream from the river basin region. This is based on the understanding that all things are connected: “The forest is the lover of the ocean.”

Conifer forests that are not thinned properly do not allow much sunlight to reach the ground. Thus, the undergrowth is not well developed, and the absorption of CO2 is bad. Use good quality compost to enrich the soil. Create warm beds for vegetables, using heat created by the fermentation and composting of leaves, straw, rice bran and other organic material.

Uozumi-san concluded: “Only good things will come from the clean water that flows in the stream, when only good things are put into the water…”


I loved this post. Thank you so much.

I have been composting with leaves--I collect them from my neighbors--I don't like to waste anything for years. I didn't know that it restore carbon dioxide in the soil.

I also like to use dying mushrooms because they seem so earthy and all the citrus peelings from the grapefruit, oranges, mikan, lemons from my own trees.

I am naturally crazy about humus --this sounds strange--and make a lot of it. I need to learn more about what I do instinctively.

Thanks for this beautiful post!

Pandabonium said…
Super. My home is even in the satellite pic of southern Ibaraki! It's just to the right of lake Kitaura... see it? And of course, lake Hinuma, in which we sail, is just north of the picture.
Would love to help clean these lakes up.

We compost, but using plastic containers. I'll have to learn more about "waku" boxes, and how they are different from what I do.

I've also been wanting to get some worm composting going - I know there are folks around Japan doing that too. Would make a good post on its own.
Martin J Frid said…
Jean, that's great about having your own fruit trees. A treasure!

P, if your house was just a little bit bigger... In fact I was pleased to learn more about these lakes and hope they get their issues sorted out. Composting is something everyone can do, even on the balcony, and I liked the focus on "connectedness" from the forests all the way to the ocean.
Tom O said…
Composting - nature replenishing nature. Gaia I believe its called. Why don't us humans learn. The Americans thought the nuclear bombs would wipe out 'nature', but when they went to pick up the monitors they had also dropped...
Tom O said…
Sorry, in respect of Hiroshima.
After Hiroshima, people thought nothing would grow. But plant life came back.

There was a wonderful participatory global healing arts project called "Revive Time" Kaki Tree Project-- seeds from a persimmon tree that survived the Nagasaki atomic bombing were used to create seedlings sent to places all over the world where they were planted by school children.

So now, there are trees that survived the 2 of 2,000 atomic blasts we've experienced, growing worldwide as symbols of hope:

"Half a century ago, the atom bomb was dropped in Nagasaki.
"Revive Time" Kaki Tree Project is a story from all people and small seedlings.
To the next generation, to connect the energy of life across borders."

The last news update from their site was 2008. I would love to know if they're still sending seedlings abroad.

Thanks Tom for making this thought come back into my mind.

And thanks again, Martin, for sharing more on the power of humus :) !

A beloved neighbor who went into Nagasaki as a 19-year-old sailor to find POWs (and who saved a dog and said he smuggled food to civilians) gave me a fig tree about 3 feet tall (a grafting, not seedling) -- I nurtured it with humus and it bore about 40 fruit the first year. I had never eaten a fresh fig before. It tastes like candy.

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