Tokyo University of Agriculture establishes places for exchange that create an enriched life by making the university’s research results widely open to the local community and by providing broad life-long learning opportunities to the public. These efforts include such things as restoration of disaster-struck areas, community revitalization projects, human resource development programs, and environmental conservation activities.
Mountain Village Regeneration Project Nagawa Town, Nagano Prefecture
In 1992, a group of forestry successors in Nagawa Town started tree-planting exchanges with students. In 2008, Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology adopted the project as a “high quality university education” scheme, after which the university and Nagawa Town signed a community engagement agreement.
The contents of activities are wide ranging, and include the establishment of a population vision related to local revitalization, cooperation in the formulation of general strategies, development of specialty products such as Nagawa Tomatoes, Ikeda Nanban Walnut Miso, quinoa, amaranthus, and perilla oil, solving community issues, and tours of the university’s open college.
Tamagawa Genryu College, Kosuge Village, Yamanashi Prefecture
In 2001, the university began working on a reforestation project in cooperation with Kosuge Village, local residents, and relevant companies. In 2006, it established Tamagawa Genryu College as a human resource development program.
Based out of the old Shirazawa Branch of Kosuge Elementary School, which was renovated using timber from forest thinning in the headwaters region, students practice farming and forestry and gain cultural experiences. Through these activities, the program aims to develop human resources who understand life in farming and mountain villages, like such rural communities, and can play active roles in a variety of fields in the future.
Conservation of the Satoyama Landscapes Samegawa Village, Fukushima Prefecture
In 2000, the university started conservation of the satoyama landscapes by faculty members, students, and local farmers. Based on those results, the university and Samegawa Village signed a community engagement agreement in 2010.
Satoyama landscape conservation activities, in which students learn from the wisdom and experience of farmers, are conducted six times a year as practical education, and intensive training in satoyama park construction management is held at Tateyama Park in the summer. As practical science research, research is conducted into developing agricultural resources into specialty products and the university cooperates in research at a biomass center that makes use of biomass resources.
Project to Restore a Disaster-struck Area by Gathering the Wisdom of Tokyo University of Agriculture
On March 11, 2011, the Great East Japan Earthquake struck, causing unprecedented damage. Soon afterward, many people in and outside Japan offered assistance with the hope of seeing the afflicted area recover as soon as possible. Tokyo University of Agriculture also looked for a way to contribute to the disaster-struck area through agriculture, which is our specialty. Faculty members and students united and began taking action with the aim of the resumption of agricultural production in the devastated areas.
One of those support efforts is Tokyo University of Agriculture Great East Japan Earthquake Support Project, which we started in the area around the city of Soma, Fukushima Prefecture. In May 2011, two months after the earthquake, we formed a corps of Tokyo NODAI professors who are experts in different fields. The corps consisted of eight specialized teams—farmland restoration, soil fertilization, crop cultivation, forest restoration, farm management, reputational damage countermeasures, nutritional improvement/therapy, and community reconstruction—that cooperate with each other, and began solving problems depending on the damage situation. One of the results of the project is the support for paddy field restoration provided by the soil fertilization group led by Professor Itsuo Goto (now professor emeritus) of the Faculty of Applied Biosciences. Immediately after the earthquake, sediment carried by a giant tsunami was deposited on farmland. This sediment, which contains salt and boron, was hindering the growth of agricultural produce.
The basis of conventional salt removal is to remove the deposited sediment. It is work that requires a great deal of time and effort. The team investigated restoration measures that could be taken without removing the sediment. Based on its investigation, the team set its sights on a method of salt removal by rainwater.
First, they conducted a detailed analysis of the deposited tsunami sediment and, after confirming that it did not contain harmful components, mixed the layers with the original soil. The salt in the tsunami sediment then dissolved out in rainwater over a period of about six months. Afterward, soil acidification was reduced by mixing a lime component called converter slag into the soil. The soil was improved to make it suitable for crop growth while making use of the minerals such as magnesium and calcium that were contained in the tsunami sediment.
In this way, the farmland was restored to the point that “Soma Revival Rice” could be harvested in September, one year after the earthquake. Also, although approximately 750 Bq/kg of radioactive cesium was detected in paddy fields that had been damaged from radiation, surprisingly no radioactive cesium was detected in the harvested rice ears, brown rice or rice straw. By 2015, 650 ha of paddy fields had been reopened for planting using the Soma method (Tokyo NODAI method). This initiative not only regenerated farmland, it even changed, through the unity of faculty members and students, farm management and the hearts of the farmers, who had been plunged into grief.