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Japan's Agriculture Ministry Experimenting Star Ratings for Farmers who Cut Emissions

The agriculture ministry has devised a method for calculating how much farmers have reduced their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases compared to conventional cultivation methods as they strive to be more environmentally friendly.

Shivam Dwivedi
Agriculture ministry hopes to increase the number of producers with star ratings and raise consumer awareness of starred products.
Agriculture ministry hopes to increase the number of producers with star ratings and raise consumer awareness of starred products.

Agriculture Ministry is demonstrating and testing its method for rating emissions cuts on a scale of one to three stars to make progress in decarbonization efforts more visible to increase environmental awareness among farmers and consumers alike. In all phases of agricultural produce production, from cultivation to processing and distribution, the production stage accounts for 60% to 80% of heat-trapping gas emissions.

Emissions are produced by using fuel to power agricultural equipment such as tractors. Chemical fertilizer production and transportation produce greenhouse gases. Even after fertilizers are applied to the fields, their nitrogen is released into the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas, albeit in small amounts. The experiment began with rice, tomatoes, and cucumbers, which have lower emissions and are easier to calculate and compare.

The emissions cut for each evaluation criterion, such as not using chemical fertilizers or agricultural chemicals, is calculated with regional characteristics in mind. In addition, methane gas emissions can be reduced by extending by one week the period when water is drained from rice fields for drying in summer to manage rice plant growth. A reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of 5% to 9.9% is recognized with one star, 10% to 19.9% with two stars, and 20% or more with three stars.

Satoshi Kawabata's greenhouse tomatoes were awarded three stars in Kawachinagano, Osaka Prefecture. In addition to reducing his use of agricultural chemicals and chemical fertilizers to less than half of the industry standard, Kawabata was praised for going without artificial heating even during the winter. Instead, he employs geothermal heat by installing two-layer curtains in his greenhouses and covering rows of crops with gardening sheets in his fields.

According to the agriculture ministry, unexpectedly large amounts of gases are emitted from heating, which frequently offset the reduction achieved through reductions in agricultural chemical use, preventing farmers from gaining any stars in the evaluation. Kawabata believes that farming without artificial heating has improved the taste of his tomatoes but that this value has never been recognized.

The ministry intends to extend the experiment until the end of the year to improve the accuracy of its emissions calculations and expand the list of products covered by the test. Furthermore, the ministry hopes to increase the number of producers with star ratings and raise consumer awareness of starred products.

A rice ball shop in central Tokyo's Toranomon district uses "environmentally friendly rice" grown in Tome, Miyagi Prefecture, which has three stars. "(Our rice balls) have not yet gained widespread recognition," said store employee Koichi Nagase. "I hope more people will be able to find such products in supermarkets and other places, which will help increase trust in them."

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