Scientists Search For Rice That Absorbs Less Radioactive Cesium From Soil For Fukushima Pref.

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Researchers search for radiation-resistant rice for Fukushima (Mainichi, August 22, 2011):

FUKUSHIMA (Kyodo) — A research agency in Fukushima Prefecture recently began examining some 110 varieties of rice from in and outside Japan in search for strains that absorb less radioactive cesium from soil.

The project, which the Fukushima Agricultural Technology Center initiated in the wake of the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, is unprecedented in that no research has ever been done on rice grown on ground tainted with a relatively high amount of radioactive matter, the center’s research team said.

The research is of particular importance considering that the radiation from the Tokyo Electric Power Co. plant will likely continue to affect rice farming in neighboring areas into next year and beyond, it said.

“We might be able to develop new (cesium-resistant) rice strains if we find rice varieties that absorb less cesium through this project and cross them with Japanese rice,” said Keisuke Nemoto, professor at the University of Tokyo’s graduate school and a member of the team.

The team is looking at a wide range of strains from Asia, South America and Africa including countries such as India and Bangladesh.
In the past, Japanese researchers have studied the effects of radioactivity on rice cultivation based on data collected from atmospheric nuclear weapons tests done by the United States and the former Soviet Union, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

No data is available, however, on rice grown on soil highly contaminated with radioactive substances, the team said.

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