Home, DIY & Stuff | Ideas and projects to help you make, break and understand stuff
Latest Story

Super Storms Risk Rice Crops in Japan

August 24, 2014
By

A storm super cell approaches rice paddies in Japan.

summer-seasonWeather presents major risks for any farmer and their crop.

Rice plants become heavily laden with maturing rice grains.

Late season rice plants become heavily laden and top heavy with maturing rice grains.

For Japanese rice paddy growers, the unsettled weather and violent storms which occur regularly in Japan’s late Summer can be soul destroying.

Massive super-cell storms suddenly develop out of no where. The ferocious storms couple wild winds, flickering lightning and damagingly heavy rainfall.  Precious rice crops can be destroyed in minutes.

Intense rain downpours at fall rates up to 4 inches/hr (100 mm/hr) and winds up to 100 mph (170 km/hr) are not uncommon in Japan.  On top of localized storms, passing typhoons also bring further potential for widespread crop damage throughout the country.

The weather related risks for rice farmers are usually greatest just prior to rice paddy harvest in late August and September.

As rice paddies yellow, the mature rice plants become drier, more brittle and heavily laden with grain. The plant stems and leaves are thicker, but also more easily bent, broken and shredded under their weight.  The top heavy plants are prone to damage from both flooding and high velocity wind squalls (and even the occasional tornado!).
Read more »

Share this post ...
Share on Google+Share on FacebookPin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterDigg thisShare on Reddit

Drone Helicopters for Spraying Crops

May 20, 2014
By
Drone helicopters are replacing traditional techniques for spraying crops in Japan.

Drone helicopters are replacing traditional techniques for spraying crops in Japan.

Drone helicopters are quickly finding their place as efficient tools within the Japanese agricultural industry.

Drone helicopters specifically designed for crop spraying and inspection are well suited for use over confined farming land with numerous obstacles.  Drones do not have the same drawbacks or carry the same risks as alternative ground or aerial spray application methods.

Rice paddies and other farming plots in Japan tend to provide exceedingly poor access to farmers for servicing of crops once planted.

Irregularly shaped plots scattered over the semi-rural landscapes are closely entwined with a multitude of barriers and confinements in surrounding infrastructure.   Deep drains, pump  houses, power lines, communication towers, houses and roads all become access barriers and dangerous aerial hazards when it comes time to spray crops.

Read more »

Share this post ...
Share on Google+Share on FacebookPin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterDigg thisShare on Reddit

Rice Paddy Planting

May 16, 2014
By

Spring Season

A Japanese farmer plants rice seedlings in his rice paddy.

A farmer plants rice seedlings in a partially flooded paddy in Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan.

Japanese farmers have been in full force in their rice paddies in the last couple of weeks. As a result, once dry plots of farming land have suddenly been transformed  into flooded lakes of emerging greenery.

Rice farmers ride atop specially designed planting machines to embed neat rows of rice seedlings into the mud of their paddies.    The machines have large, broadly ribbed wheels designed for water and deep, boggy mud in the flooded rice paddies.

The machines come equipped with various arrangements of rotary planter mechanisms, fertilizer delivery boxes and driver seat positioning, amongst other features and components.

A rice seedling planting machine is loaded with seedling mats and fertilizer, ready to sow the season's rice crop.

A Kubota designed rice planting machine is fully loaded with rice seedling mats and fertilizer, and is ready to enter the flooded rice paddy to sow the season’s rice crop.

The machines typically vary in size from approximately 3-10 feet in width, with each planting a similarly varied number of seedling rows at a time.  The selection of the machinery is made depending on the size of rice paddies to be planted and the capitalization of the farming operations.

Rice seedling stock is germinated from seed in densely packed seedling trays during late Winter.  By Spring, the crowded seedlings form a sturdy mat of roots topped with vibrant 4-5 inch high blade leaves.

In preparation for planting, the young rice seedlings are removed from their germination trays as a complete mat and loaded onto the planter delivery systems at the rear of the machines.  Additional mats of seedlings are also stacked on racks by the farmers’ side, where they can be easily accessed and later loaded into the planting mechanism when seedling re-fills are required. This saves overly regular returns to the edge of the flooded rice paddy for seedling re-fills.

The rotating mechanism on the rear of the machines takes the  individual seedlings from the trays and inserts them into the water. The fragile seedling roots are embedded into the mud a few inches beneath the rice paddy’s water level.  Once planted and paddies are fully flooded, only a portion of the plants’ leaves appear above the surface of the water.

Read more »

Share this post ...
Share on Google+Share on FacebookPin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterDigg thisShare on Reddit

Etching DIY Circuit Boards (PCB)

March 3, 2014
By

PCB Screen PrintingElectronics hobbyists who have never ventured into the realms of making their own circuit boards, are missing out on half the fun.  Here, we present a quick step-by-step guide to the UV light transfer and Ferric Chloride etching method for making your own printed circuit boards.

Home DIY electronics projects can be a lot of fun for discovery and learning.  They can also be extremely useful for those  extra buttons and remote devices in your home.

What is even better, is being able sit the project components on a printed circuit board (PCB) that you also made yourself.

It is extremely satisfying seeing a finished DIY electronics project which looks so professional it could have just as easily come from the nearest electronics store.  Learning the skill of etching your own PCBs will help you obtain that same satisfaction in your home electronics projects too.

Read more »

Share this post ...
Share on Google+Share on FacebookPin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterDigg thisShare on Reddit

Lettuce Freeze

February 13, 2014
By
lettucefreeze

Lettuce plants grow protected from frost and snow in the weak Winter sun.

winter-seasonFresh, abundant fruit and vegetables in year round supply are what most residents of the modern mega-cities of Japan have come to expect.   People rarely stop to consider exactly how any of the fresh produce got there, let alone giving extra thought to how it is grown during peak Winter seasons.

In reality however, the cold temperatures and conditions in rural Japan in Winter dictate a major difference in how vegetables need to be grown in the off season.  While Summer sees various farming techniques that protect crops from persistent heat, insects and high humidity, Winter farming calls for warmth and protection from bitterly cold winds, frost and snow.  As such, when the growing days become shorter, farmers all across Japan turn to plastic …  And mountains of it!

lettucefreeze5Frost protection tunnels for lettuce are a common sight in the agricultural areas of Japan in Winter.  Preparing and planting the tunnels with seedlings is a labor intensive activity.  Specialized machines are used to both mound the soil into raised rows as well as to stretch black plastic over the leveled mounds.  This aids heat capture and prevents weed growth as the seedlings develop.   The plastic liner is pre-cut with staggered holes positioned abreast for placement of the individual plants.  The liner has the edges automatically tucked neatly under the soil to secure it in place.

Directly after planting, half hoops of metal rod are then pushed into the soft soil to form a tunnel structure above the black plastic.  A further sheet of strong, clear plastic is laid over the the top of the structure to form an enclosed tunnel.   Finally, the tunnel plastic  is strapped to the metal hoops to provide a tight cover and aerodynamic structure that can withstand strong Winter winds and snow.  The soil mounds and seedlings are now protected and ready for Winter growth.

plasticlettuce2The plastic tunnels are only a meter or so in width and are spaced so farmers can walk between them for servicing requirements.  Later in the Winter season as temperatures begin rise and the risks of frost withdraws, the lower edges of the tunnels can be opened to allow better aeration and to give access for spraying, inspection or any other treatment required.

While plots of land for growing vegetables in Japan tend to be relatively small individually, the cumulative sight of numerous neighboring plots covered with tunnels often makes the landscape look like a sea of plastic stretching into the distance.

Read more »

Share this post ...
Share on Google+Share on FacebookPin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterDigg thisShare on Reddit

Greenhouse Farming in Japan

February 8, 2014
By

winter-seasonJapanese Winter temperatures plunge below freezing on a regular basis, despite skies often being bright, clear and sunny.  In these low temperatures, seed germination is usually impossible and growth usually grinds to a halt in any open air farming environment.  Snow and frost damage is also a very likely risk for most unprotected crops.   Greenhouses are therefore an important part of farming in Japan for both large and small scale operations.  Die hard DIY gardeners also use greenhouses to produce home grown food for their close knit families, friends and communities.

Winter Greenhouse Farming

Snow engulfs the greenhouses of a private DIY gardener in Japan.

Japanese greenhouses

Commercial scale greenhouses sit in the bright sunshine and bitterly cold Winter air in Japan.

Read more »

Share this post ...
Share on Google+Share on FacebookPin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterDigg thisShare on Reddit

Chinese Cabbage Harvest is On Again.

February 2, 2014
By
Frost and snow burn on Chinese cabbage in late Winter.

Frost and snow burn on the outer leaves of  a small Chinese cabbage crop in late Winter.

winter-seasonLate Winter is a busy time for Japanese farmers.  There are many chores and preparations required before the Spring warmth returns in full force and new crops can jump back to life.

Part of the list of chores is to harvest cycled vegetable crops which have managed to grow and mature through the Winter season.  This includes crops of Chinese cabbage, lettuce and onions.

In the case of Chinese cabbage, the crops often look quite beaten and damaged after being grown without cover or protection in the full freeze of Winter’s snow and frost .

The damage is however, only skin deep.  This is because earlier in the season, the farmers bound each individual developing plant with string to ensure the inner bulk of the plant grows to become extremely dense. Read more »

Share this post ...
Share on Google+Share on FacebookPin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterDigg thisShare on Reddit