NIAES Target and Strategy
The Institute for Agro-Environmental Sciences, NARO (NIAES) has its roots in the Agriculture and Commerce Ministry's National Agricultural Experiment Station, which was created in 1893. In 1950, this was reorganized into the National Institute of Agricultural Sciences, and in 1983 it was again reorganized into the National Institute of Agro-Environmental Sciences. In 2001, it became an independent administrative institution. From Under our five-year research plan, we have three objectives which emphasize basic studies and research meant to ensure the safety of agricultural production environments as follows: (1) assessing risk in agricultural environments and developing risk management technologies; (2) elucidating the structure of agricultural ecosystems in order to develop technologies to manage natural cycles; and (3) basic research to help elucidate the functions of agricultural ecosystems.
Tackling global Warming
Interactions between global climate change and agriculture
1) Quantitative evaluation of climate change mitigation options for agricultural land
We are conducting research aimed at reducing agricultural GreenHouse Gas (GHG) emissions by studying soil carbon storage and elucidating the processes behind the generation of farmland GHG emissions. We also estimate the potential reduction of GHG emission from agricultural land in Japan and other Asian countries, and propose appropriate agricultural management for climate change mitigation.
2) Mechanisms and impacts of global environmental change on crop production
By elucidating the response of crops to increases in atmospheric CO2 and rising temperatures and by developing impact-forecasting models, we are contributing to the development of rice strains and cultivation techniques suited to future environmental conditions caused by global warming. In addition, future variations in domestic and global food production are projected.
Towards agriculture that sustains biodiversity
Investigation of mechanisms of variation in agrobiodiversity and environmental function
1) Investigation of mechanisms of variation in agrobiodiversity and development of appropriate agricultural management technologies
To ensure the compatibility of biodiversity conservation and agricultural production in agricultural ecosystems,we are assessing the impact of changes in agricultural practices on biodiversity. We are developing biodiversity indicators by which the effectiveness of initiatives such as environment-friendly agriculture can be assessed, as well as other tools for wide-area biodiversity assessment and prediction. We are also developing methods for ecological impact assessment and appropriate management of genetically modified crops and invasive alien species.
2) Investigation of environmental biofunction to promote environmentally friendly and sustainable agriculture
We are studying biofunctions and interactions among organisms in the environment that are mediated via semiochemicals, to enable the use of these "eco-friendly" materials for conservation and improvement of the agro-environment. Current research topics include the use of semiochemicals to control insect behavior and plant growth, microbial enzymes that provide a new labor-saving technique for farmers, and metagenomes that reflect soil microbial activity in agricultural fields.
Managing hazardous chemicals in agro-environments
Dynamics of agro-chemicals and methods for reducing risks in agro-environments
1) Methods for reducing risks of toxic chemicals
We are developing techniques for estimating and reducing the risks posed by cadmium (Cd), arsenic, persistent organic pollutants (POPs), radioactive substances, and other hazardous chemicals in agro-environments, to support the production of safe agricultural products.
2) Methods for predicting environmental dynamics of agrochemicals and evaluating their effects on agro-ecosystems
To support sustainable, stable, and low-impact agricultural production, we are analyzing the movement of pesticides and other organic chemicals as well as nitrates, phosphates, and other nutrients in agro-environments, and we are developing techniques for predicting environmental impacts at the river basin scale. We are also developing methods for assessing the effects of such chemicals on agro-ecosystems.
Making more effective use of research data
Developing a natural resources inventory
1) Surveillance and prediction of environmental dynamics by applying agricultural spatial information and gas flux monitoring
For wide-ranging evaluations of agro-environmental resources, we are developing new remote-sensing methods for high-precision evaluations of land use and crop productivity. By integrating these methods with land-based observational data, we are developing systems for the wide-ranging surveillance and prediction of greenhouse gas flux and of water and carbon dynamics.
2) Collecting agro-environmental information and developing an integrated database
To reinforce the foundation of research in the agro-environmental field, we will collect and add data such as soil properties, weather, organisms, land management, farmland images taken by satellite-mounted radar, and agricultural statistics into our databases and construct an integrated database to provide unified information. We are also developing a new method to evaluate the ecobalance of agricultural fields to promote the coexistence of agricultural productivity and environmental conservation. We will also monitor the radioactive substances in Japanese agricultural environments to determine current extent of contamination and monitor changes over time.