AZOLLA + DUCK + RICE + FISH = Happy Farming
Asian farmers cultivating organic rice have adapted an ingenious way to cut out pesticide and herbicide use. Japanese farmer and entrepreneur, Takao Furuno, developed Duck-Rice as an integrated bio-system which eliminates the need for fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides by incorporating duck-raising into organic rice cultivation.
His method is called Aigamo, named after the small breed of duck he uses, a cross between a mallard drake and a domesticated species. This approach is now being replicated with substantial success all over South East Asia as an effective way to boost farmer incomes, reduce environmental impact and improve food security.
The operations simultaneously raise ducklings, Loaches (a species of fish), rice, and Azolla (a nitrate-fixing species of aquatic fern). Two or three weeks after rice seedlings have been planted, ducks patrol paddy waters and feed on unwanted pests. They don’t eat the rice plants due to the silica content of the leaves. The ducklings provide integrated pest management (IPM) services, replacing pesticides and herbicides by naturally controlling predaceous pest populations. They also feeds on weeds, which eliminates the need for pesticides and for the manual labor associated with manual weeding.
In addition, they stir up the soil in the rice paddy with their feet and bills, a process that increases the oxygen content of the soil, making it more nutritious for the seedlings and strengthens rice stalks. Furthermore, the Loache fish and duck waste, combined with the nitrate fixing properties of Azolla, increase soil nutrition, maintaining levels of productivity comparable to conventional farming operations without the need for costly synthetic fertilizers, leaving the farmer with considerable time to invest in other income-producing activities. The Azolla can later be harvested for animal feed. Azolla is unique because it is one of the fastest growing plants on the planet, yet it does not need any soil to grow.
Unlike almost all other plants, Azolla is able to get its nitrogen fertilizer directly from the atmosphere. That means that it is able to produce biofertilizer, livestock feed, food and biofuel exactly where they are needed and, at the same time, draw down large amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere, thus helping to reduce the threat of climate change. There is also some evidence that this form of rice cultivation neutralizes a significant amount of the greenhouse gas emissions that rice paddies produce, an estimated 12% of global anthropogenic methane output. In overall, this type of integrated farming method, which has been proven successful in Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam and China, is not only effective in eliminating the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, (thus protect human health and environment) but also enables farmers to obtain not only rice but also subsidiary products (duck meat, eggs and fish) from the same piece of land.