A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the land, and to pervade the very atmosphere.
—Washington Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Koriyama is tumbling headlong into Fall. There’s been a perceptible, dooming chill in the air, and a few trees have switched on their brights in response. The W word was even mentioned recently.
But before everything freezes over and life goes to pot, the autumnal months mean rice harvesting time, and maybe a hopeful one for farmers in the Fukushima prefecture. In August, the National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations (ZEN-NOH) announced that rice exports from Sukagawa – less than 15 km from Koriyama and some 80 km from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant – would resume.
The mere 300-kg shipment, which officials assured had passed the government safety standard of 100 becquerels per kilogram, was sent to Singapore. Some English-language Singaporean websites reported that the shipment sold out within a couple of days.
All seems very promising, but there is still a host of problems to be dealt with for other farmers in the prefecture. In the months following the earthquake and subsequent nuclear plant disaster, rice producers sought to tackle the radiation problem by simply scraping off the top layer of soil, a practice still being carried out today in many of Koriyama’s playgrounds. One student spent his holiday doing the same for his parents’ garden.
Other methods, including using the mineral zeolite to absorb radioactive cesium and increasing tilling depth to release/remove contaminated soils, have met with some success, yet not on a large or significant scale. Compound these obstacles with the level of trust I’ve perceived from local Koriyamans, the good news slightly loses its edge.
What is promising, though, is the recent work being done on gene transplantation, in which researches have used a carbon-fixing enzyme to speed up photosynthesis in the tobacco plant. An implication of this work could be increasing crop yields worldwide and particularly in India, which has recently had its own issues in rice cultivation.
That being said, it will be years before these schemes start to germinate. For now, I’m content to spend my final days in the sun sipping hot spiced wine and cider and taking in an old Steve Reeve’s movie. Hallowe’en is upon us.