JIRCAS, in cooperation with the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Research Council (AFFRC) Secretariat, presented the Japan International Award for Young Agricultural Researchers for the 12th consecutive year. The award recognizes and honors young foreign researchers (under 40 years of age) who are highly recommended by their institutes, and whose outstanding achievements promote research and development of agricultural, forestry, fishery and other related industries in developing regions. The 2018 commendation ceremony was held last November 6 at the U Thant International Conference Hall, United Nations University (UNU) in Tokyo.
The awardees and guests were welcomed by Mr. Yoshio Kobayashi, chairman of the AFFRC. Congratulatory remarks were delivered by Dr. Takahiro Ueyama, executive member of the Council for Science, Technology and Innovation, Cabinet Office; Dr. Osamu Saito, academic director/academic programme officer of the UNU Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability; and Mr. Hideya Yamada, vice president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The selection process was explained by Dr. Mutsuo Iwamoto, chairperson of the Selection Committee. Mr. Kobayashi and Dr. Masa Iwanaga, president of JIRCAS, presented the prizes.
The seven-member selection committee conducted a document review, with the chairman of the AFFRC determining three winners from among 31 candidates. Each awardee received a testimonial and a monetary prize of 5,000 US dollars.
The 2018 awardees and their research achievements
University of Antananarivo, Madagascar
Research Achievement: Organic matter dynamics in agroecosystems of Madagascar and its effective use for crop production
Outline of Research Achievements
Soil organic carbon (SOC) or organic fertilizer resources play a key role in maintaining soil fertility, increasing crop productivity, and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions particularly in the tropics. Dr. Andriamananjara and his colleagues revealed the role of organic matter application on crop productivity and its interaction with highly weathered and phosphorus (P)-deficient soils in Madagascar. Farmyard manure (FYM) application significantly increased the grain yield of rice and improved P fertilizer use efficiency in the upland ecosystem particularly in fields with low SOC contents and low pH, whereas the effect was not significant in irrigated lowlands where soil P availability was relatively high.
New knowledge about carbon dynamics in plant and soils in various agroecosystems of Madagascar was also obtained. Soil surface has a critical role and is more vulnerable to C storage in various agroecosystems in Madagascar relative to the deep soil layers and aboveground biomass. The topsoil C storage varied with elevation, soil texture, and land cover.
Accurate SOC estimation models were also developed using mid-infrared spectroscopy (for various agroecosystems) or visible and near-infrared (Vis-NIR) diffuse reflectance spectroscopy with partial least squares (PLS) approach (for the upland and lowland rice soils) for a national SOC mapping purpose.
Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM), Malaysia
Research Achievement: Production of high quality planting materials of popular herbal species in Malaysia, Labisia pumila
Outline of Research Achievements
Research in plant breeding in Malaysia, especially in producing good varieties, is only focused on food crops and forest plantation species. No studies had been conducted for herbal species. Dr. Farah Fazwa has pioneered research related to the production of a high-quality variety of the herbal species Labisia pumila (Primulaceae). This elite variety has its own uniqueness because it has gone through nine years of R&D and has better traits than the others. It has good morphological characteristics and high biomass, exhibits vigorous growth, and contains high total phenolic compounds. This new variety has also been proven to have high adaptability and survivability under different environments. DNA and chemical fingerprinting of this variety has also been profiled. This elite variety has been registered for Plant Variety Protection (PVP) in 2017 in Malaysia.
In addition, a technique for mass production of the elite variety using tissue culture method through temporary immersion system (TIS) has been developed. This technique is effective for producing mass plantlets in a shorter period and at a lower cost as compared to conventional tissue culture method. The complete R&D package on the production of high quality planting materials of this herbal species is being commercialized to fulfil demand in the industry. The technology developed through this research will also reduce harvesting pressure on raw materials from natural forests.
Institute of Hydrobiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China
Research Achievement: Study on diverse micro-organisms responsible for fatal parasitic disease outbreaks in farmed freshwater fish, and development of biology-based preventative measures against the diseases
Outline of Research Achievements
Parasitosis has increasingly caused huge economic and ecological losses in aquaculture due to increasing drug resistance and vaccine unavailability. This underscores the urgency of developing targeted and eco-friendly control methods to support sustainable development of aquaculture. Taking myxosporidiosis in pond-cultured gibel carp in China as an example, Dr. Zhang and his colleagues have developed an integrative control strategy based on the biology and ecology of the involved etiological agents. It has been applied to production practice, reducing the use of chemical agents by over 60% and decreasing economic losses by over 30%.
This strategy involves: 1) identifying etiological agents among 30+ gibel carp-infecting myxosporeans, 2) elucidating the life cycles of the 3 main pathogenic myxosporeans, 3) developing molecular detection methods (PCR, LAMP, and QPCR) to qualitatively and quantitatively monitor the pathogens in the culture pond, in combination with eDNA analysis, 4) developing a mode of SPF (specific pathogen free) gibel carp seedling culture, 5) screening chemical agents that are most effective in inactivating the infective actinospores in the water column and blocking its development into mature spores, and determining the usage time-point and period, and 6) fallowing, rotating, and polyculture with grass carp, blunt-snout bream, channel catfish, prawns, and mitten crab based on host specificity, and blocking the life cycle of etiological agents.