[Image: Japanese visitors]
News Release Distributed 07/24/14
BATON ROUGE, La. – Satellites in space may be far away, but two Japanese engineers are developing ways to use them to improve their country's rice crop.
Koji Wakamori and Dorj Ichikawa, chief engineers with the Japan Manned Space Systems Corporation (JAMSS), visited the LSU AgCenter on July 21-22 to discuss collaboration in remote sensing and data processing for agricultural purposes. They also attended the St. Landry Soybean and Rice Producer Field Tour and met with faculty at the AgCenter Rice Research Station.
Wakamori and Ichikawa, who work in JAMSS' business incubation center, spoke with AgCenter soil scientist Brenda Tubaña and nematologist Charles Overstreet, who use remote sensing in their research. They also heard from AgCenter engineer Randy Price and Tensas Parish agent Dennis Burns about unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, which can be used to monitor crops and collect data.
“Developing appropriate collaborations with a diversity of public and private sector international organizations is beneficial to strengthening the research, extension and training efforts of the AgCenter,” said David Picha, director of International Programs. “Much can be learned by collaborating with international agriculture firms, which can benefit Louisiana and the global community.”
JAMSS is a private company that has designed modules used on the International Space Station and processes information from satellites. The company is now applying that technology to agriculture by helping farmers in the Japan Agriculture Union interpret data and imagery of rice paddies. They also monitor tomatoes in Australia and tea in Vietnam.
"Of course we want to expand our business, but we want to use this technology to learn how to improve the rice crop and quality," Ichikawa said.
He said his company is interested in working with the AgCenter because of its expertise in both rice and remote sensing.
This is a good opportunity, Wakamori said, because Japanese consumers are discerning about rice quality, and farmers want their crop to yield well while meeting consumer demands. Japanese typically prefer rice that is sticky, glassy — not white — in color and tastes good, he said.
Wakamori said less protein produces a stickier texture and can be controlled by limiting fertilizer applications after the panicle formation stage. The JAMSS system collects data that is processed into a value that indicates nitrogen levels in leaves. Farmers can access that information through an online database and decide when to start cutting back on fertilizer, Wakamori said.
Satellites can also help monitor the temperature, which affects starch content and quality. Temperature cannot be controlled directly, but Wakamori said satellites may help farmers adjust planting dates and locations or provide rice breeders with data so they can genetically improve heat tolerance.
JAMSS hopes to improve its processing system so it can expand how much land it monitors as well as offer information on atmospheric dust and pollution. The goal is to provide good technology and educate farmers on how to use it to make more decisions, Ichikawa said.