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Rice Paddy Planting

April 27, 2016
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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.

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Leaves Fall, Frogs Change

November 15, 2015
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Fall Season at HomeDIYStuff

Japanese Tree Frog - Hyla japonica

Japanese Tree Frog – Hyla japonica

Remember the cute, yet exceedingly greedy little terrestrial Japanese Tree Frog, Hyla japonica, we mentioned last Summer? The endemic frog species of Japan which helped scientists give the world more efficient Wi-Fi communication by getting croaks heard in the congestion of mating season airwaves?

They used to be colored a vibrant green. Now they are not!

The gardens and habitats have dried as the air has cooled. As such, most rain frogs have also thrown off their garish Summer tones of green for cooler, more camouflaged grays. Others still can’t yet make up their minds and have chosen to wear splashes of both green and gray as they hop between dried perennials and hide amongst remaining outposts of greenery.

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Lettuce Harvest in Japan

March 4, 2015
By
A sea of gradually maturing lettuce plants grow under a frost protection tunnels in Ibaraki, Japan.

A sea of gradually maturing lettuce plants grow under frost protection tunnels in Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan.

winter-seasonWith greenhouses providing much of the warmth for germination and growth of lettuce seedlings in the Winter season, lettuce plants really don’t need much time in the ground in growing plots before being ready to harvest.  Growing conditions are suitable for multiple, staggered crops of lettuce almost year round in Japan.  All for except the peak Summer periods.

We mentioned the planting out process of lettuce in an earlier post, but in Ibaraki Prefecture, the last week or two has already seen the commencement of harvesting activity for some of that Winter grown lettuce crop.  Ibaraki Prefecture is an area well known for contributing to a significant portion of Japan’s annual 530,000 tonne  production quota.  The Ibaraki farming regions help supply the lettuce market demands of many cities within and surrounding the prefecture, including Tokyo.

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Natural Mole Eradication – Red Spider Lily

September 9, 2014
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Red Spider Lily Flower (Japanese: Higanbana)

The striking Red Spider Lily Flower (Japanese: Higanbana) – protector against moles and burrowing rodents.

fall-seasonMoles can be a major problem for gardeners, farmers and groundskeepers around the world.

While moles are carnivorous and mainly eat only earthworms, grubs and insect larva, they can cause immense cosmetic damage to surface soil and can also kill or damage plant roots as they dig their tunnels, mounds and nests.

Various methods are available for controlling mole populations,  but the eradication options are quite unsavory.  With moles being somewhat difficult to trap, relocation is usually not possible. Ridding an area of moles therefore usually involves gassing, chemical use, spiking, or other methods of physically injuring the animals.

When it comes to rice paddies in rural parts of Japan, burrowing moles create an additional significant headache for paddy farmers.

When these furry critters make their homes on the edges and surrounds of rice paddies, their tunneling activities can damage and puncture water containment banks. This can lead to significant crop losses if the paddies unknowingly drain of water and rice plants are left high and dry.

Japanese farmers have used an effective natural deterrent for controlling mole and rodent populations around rice growing regions for centuries.  It doesn’t however, appear to be a technique that is widely used elsewhere in the world.
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Rice Harvest in Japan

September 3, 2014
By

summer-season

A Japanese rice farmer begins harvest of his roadside rice paddy with an open cab rice harvester.

A Japanese rice farmer begins harvest of his roadside rice paddy with an open cab rice harvester.

As Summer draws to a close, the most important event in the Japanese farming calender has arrived – the rice harvest.

Rice crops grow rapidly in the heat and humidity of the Japanese Summer. As the rice develops, crops becomes heavily laden with grain and eventually start to dry and yellow.

The soil beds of the paddies remain moist, but are generally no longer flooded or soaked through.  Farmers have allowed the water levels in the paddies to drain and evaporate in the sunshine as the rice has matured.

The rice harvest does not begin until the the moisture content of grain heads fall to around 20-30%.  Once dry enough however, there is a sudden burst of determined activity and the rice harvest is on for another year.

Farmers, harvest machinery and trucks can be seen scurrying around the rice paddies; harvesting and moving the precious rice crop as quickly as possible.
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Super Storms Risk Rice Crops in Japan

August 24, 2014
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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!).
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Japanese Tree Frogs – Gettin’ Grubby

July 8, 2014
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Japanese Tree Frog - Hyla japonica

Natural pest control – Four and a half grubs and I ain’t stoppin’ there!

summer-seasonSo just how many green grubs fit inside a standard Japanese Tree Frog anyway?

Well, judging by what we saw in the garden recently, the answer to that question is; at least four.  Or four and a half if we count to the brim!

An impressive effort for something only slightly larger than a thumbnail!

Meet Hyla japonica, the cute little frog which is endemic to Japan and hugely abundant at this time of year. They are known locally as “ama gaeru” (lit: rain frog) due to the males’ loud and constant mating choruses before and after rain. Individuals are only 12-35mm in length, but they are certainly not shy in announcing their presence if there is a mate to be found.

Despite reports of diminishing frog populations across the world, these guys report to rice paddies and home gardens in cavalries during warmer months. They eat only live prey diets consisting of mainly insects, small fish, spiders and … grubs!

Being free roaming frogs, they do not require water close-by for survival. That said, they are very common on the edges of lakes and rivers, as well as around flooded rice paddies in rural areas. They also live in trees and bamboo stands; or amongst grasses, or in the soil. They can survive extended periods without water, even during very cool, dry periods in late Winter.

At various times during the year, it is common to see 10 to 20 individuals within only a few steps in our garden. A stroll along grassed rice paddy banks will also reveal the leaping hoards who usually sit patiently waiting for food to pass by.

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Drone Helicopters for Spraying Crops

May 20, 2014
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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.

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Natural DIY Wood Sealing Oil – Update

September 7, 2013
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Stop Wood Mould Naturally with home made DIY wood sealer with natural ingredients.Since writing about making natural DIY wood sealing oil from Vinegar and Canola oil earlier in the year, we have received many questions from readers.

While we indicated that the natural DIY wood sealer protects raw wood from the elements, some DIYers were concerned that the wood sealant formula might encourage mould and rotting of wood.

In our experience, this has not been the case and the sealer generally works well!

While we make no absolute guarantees, our DIY sealing oil applications on raw wood exposed to the elements outdoors have now lasted two dripping wet, extreme high humidity Summers in Japan.  (For those not familiar with Japanese Summers, that is saying something!)

Japanese Summers are notorious for high heat, stagnant moist air masses, and ongoing months of rainfall and storms. Almost any unprotected wood exposed to these sultry outdoor conditions grow mould, moss and fungus on the surface almost immediately. 

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Amazing Swallowtail Caterpillars

June 25, 2013
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Striped CaterpillarStunningly colored green caterpillar in Japan.Spring SeasonThe late wet of the Spring season in Japan brings out a cavalry of creatures wishing to share the morsels of a moist, green garden.

Amongst them are a stunningly beautiful variety of Swallowtail caterpillars – or Ageha as they are known in Japan.

This family of caterpillars usually go through four or five instar stages as they grow.  They metamorphosis into something quite different at each step of development towards being an adult butterfly.

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