Mr. Powell Mponela from Malawi, Ms. Juliet Wanjiku Kamau from Kenya, Ms. Bibiana Betancur Corredor from Colombia and Ms. Shova Shrestha from Nepal visited ZEF’s partner institute IPADS in March 2017. They attended the ZEF-IPADS Symposium on One Health, as well as joint seminars with IPADS students and excursions to field sites. Besides, some tourist sites near Tokyo were visited. Read about training and lecture sessions at the Institute for Sustainable Agro-ecosystem Services (ISAS) of the University of Tokyo here:

From March 14-18, 2017, the four ZEF students were guests at the Institute for Sustainable Agro-ecosystem Services (ISAS) of the University of Tokyo.
Field training and lecture sessions were part of the five-day program at ISAS, which was conducted together with nine IPADS students.

Crop modelling session
The ZEF-IPADS collaboration provides a cross pollination opportunity for hybridisation of research methods between the two institutions. Computer platforms such as APSIM enables researchers to integrate processed from fragmented models of factors that influence crop growth and used improve prediction of timing of operations and yield with more than 70% accuracy..
Professor Okada and the PhD student within his laboratory, Nuwan De Silva, demonstrated a practical example of a contribution to model development and validation of parameters for two new wheat cultivars to expand the use of dominantly Australian APSIM for Japanese wheat farmers
The joint training session enabled thirteen students from the two institutions to share knowledge and discuss the potential for future integration of research. A training on crop growth modelling was supplemented by techniques that support precision farming including mechanized sowing in conservation agriculture and rapid phenotyping using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) imagery (Photo 1).

Photo 1Photo 2

Models put into practice
The training also provided the students an opportunity to see what lies below their feet. As input data for the APSIM model, soil core samples were taken at different depths of the profile (Photo 2) for bulk density and water potential determination. According to Professor Okada science has enabled these 1m shallow carbon rich soils once considered as infertile into today’s most productive ones. These soils today host the field station and supports farming in Japan. The origin of these soils is believed to be the volcanic eruptions from Mount Fuji. To maintain productivity, addition of substantial amounts of phosphorus fertilizer is required, which is a global challenge as 95% of phosphorus used globally is from Morocco but its reserves are limited.

Background information
Since green revolution, increases in food production rely on heavy chemical inputs, high capital and improved breeding programs. Several milestones have been achieved in developing and validating programs for specific crops, the environment, and input and management requirements. However, there have been continued concerns of damages to ecosystems and economic drain due to inappropriate techniques especially if old practices are applied to new cultivars and conditions. Timely decisions that are cultivar, time and site specific become increasingly important as the demand for food goes up but resource depletion and climate change derails the potential of the land based food production “culture”.

See also: Excursion to Chichibu