Japanese research offers insights for reducing climate change from agriculture

Brachiaria forage grass has been shown to inhibit nitrification, helping to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. Photo: N. Palmer (CIAT)
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Feb 22, 2012

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by Vanessa Meadu

Today, CGIAR climate change, agriculture and food security innovations are being shared with Japanese researchers at the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Research Council Secretariat in the city of Tsukuba.

Dr. Eva Wollenberg, who leads the CGIAR Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) research on pro-poor climate change mitigation, and Dr. Ruben Echeverría, Director General of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture - CIAT will present ongoing work and key findings from the CCAFS program and its international partners. CIAT is the lead centre for the CCAFS program, headquartered in Cali, Colombia.

The session also will include presentations from Japanese scientists currently undertaking work on climate change and agriculture that could potentially contribute to research efforts in developing countries.

One of the objectives of the visit is to strengthen research links between Japan and the international agricultural research community working on climate change and food security. The CGIAR has had a long and productive history working with Japanese partners on a range of initiatives.

A recent research initiative with Japanese links focused on the forage grass Brachiaria humidicola, which was found to inhibit nitrification. Nitrification is a natural process in soil that causes the conversion of nitrogen into nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. High nitrous oxide levels are directly linked to the seven-fold increase in the use of nitrogen fertilizers in agriculture since the 1970s. In short, tackling nitrification is crucial to tackling climate change.

The research, which was jointly implemented by CIAT in Colombia and scientists from the Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS), and Japan's National Food Research Institute (NFRI), resulted in the discovery and characterization of brachialactone, a chemical compound in the plant's roots. Brachialactone is released into the soil and acts as a biological nitrification inhibitor. Continued research into brachialacone could eventually help to dramatically improve the production of staple food crops. Read more about Brachiaria and its potential benefits for reducing climate change from agriculture on the CIAT blog.

In addition to research links, the Japanese government is an important CGIAR donor, and a member country of the CGIAR Fund Council.


Vanessa Meadu manages communications for CCAFS. Neil Palmer (CIAT) also contributed to this story.