concept

Research Group on Top Quality Agricultural Products in Ibaraki Prefecture Production Basis for High Quality Agricultural Products

In agriculture, the expansion of production has always been conducted with an emphasis on productivity and economic efficiency. However, expanded production has caused the destruction of natural areas and ecosystems, contamination by chemical substances, soil depletion, expansion of desertification, and water pollution. This environmental destruction has occurred not only in agriculture-producing areas but all over the world. The global environment, which needs to be passed on to future generations in a better condition, is in danger.

This situation has developed because agricultural business lacked sustainable fundamental ideas such as “production with consideration of the cycle of nature and ecosystems,” “production based on recyclability and resources recycling,” and “economic activities which put quality and safety above everything else.” Therefore we need to clarify the basic concept of sustainable agricultural business (Note 1), create a production basis for high quality agricultural products, and build a corresponding evaluation system. Furthermore, we need to produce agricultural products based on scientific evidence.

(Note 1) Sustainable: In Japan, this term is translated as “maintainable society” and “maintainable economic activity.” However, in Europe and in the U.S. the word has the meaning of, “Be sure to maintain and protect a recycling-oriented ecosystem and be aware of all the effects on nature. Production and economic activity based on such principles are sustainable.”

1. Basic Concept

1.1

Scientifically Confirmed Safety
The safety of agricultural products must be scientifically confirmed. The qualities to be supported are “safety,” “palatability,” and “health-promoting benefits/nourishment.”

1.2

Sustain Diversity of Living Things and Maintenance of Ecosystems Have full awareness of water and soil environments and the diversity of living things, including microorganisms, in the cultivated area. Production of agricultural products must to be environmentally- and eco-friendly.

1.3

Natural Energy/Energy Produced by Resource Recycling Avoid complete dependence on fossil fuels for the energy required for the production of agricultural products. Make efforts to use natural energy and energy produced by resource recycling (recycled energy).

1.4

Conserve water, our most important finite resource, and produce agricultural products without causing damage to the water environment in the area.

1.5

Ensure that managers take responsibility for their workers’ safety and health in producing agricultural products.

1.6

Emphasize “agricultural education” as it is necessary for us to fully cherish nature, understand diet/dietary education, and to realize the importance of life/environment. This education is also important in attracting and nurturing agricultural leaders who can promote sustainable agricultural business. Gaining supporters of agriculture also helps build good relationships with the local community.

2. Production Basis for Agricultural Products

Agricultural products must have scientific proof of their quality. Agricultural products must be of high quality—they must be safe, palatable, and contain highly-functional nutrients.

1.

Agricultural products should not contain pathogenic bacteria.
Pathogenic Bacteria
Genus Vibrio     Clostridium welchii
Staphylococcus aureus     Yersinia
Genus Salmonella     Aeromonas hydrophila
Campylobacter     Shigella
E. coli bacterium     Vibrio cholerae
EPEC, enteropathogenic E. coli     Plesiomonas
Salmonella paratyphi
Salmonella typhi

2.

Tolerance for pesticide residue in ND mg/Kg must be followed (Table 1)

3.

Compliance with the provisional standard for nitrate levels (Note 2)
Nitrate levels in vegetables and fruits affect palatability and quality as well as their quality maintenance periods and preservative qualities. Highly-concentrated levels of nitrates could be harmful to humans. Therefore, we set a provisional standard for nitrate levels as shown in Table 1.
(Note 2) Provisional standard for nitrate levels: After collecting data for several years and reviewing the scientific proof, the standard may be re-evaluated. Therefore current standard is considered “provisional.”

4.

Heavy-metal content of less than 0.1mg/Kg (Table 1)

5.

Vegetables and fruits contain nutrients (Table 2)

1.

Measure AOU (Antioxidant Unit) of each agricultural product based on ORAC (Note 3). Show concentration level of Trolox (μmol/g) with the number of stars.

☆☆☆☆:very high
☆☆☆:more than average
☆☆:average
☆:less than average

2.

Measure Show the amount of polyphenol in each agricultural product.

3.

Show the amount of vitamin C in each agricultural product.

4.

If necessary, the amount of vitamins such as vitamins A, E and B, and the amount of minerals, such as calcium, magnesium and potassium, in each agricultural product should be evaluated and shown.
(Note 3) ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity): a measuring technique for antioxidative potency. The ORAC measurement is used in the U.S. and Europe. The base value measured is converted into Trolox density to show antioxidative potency.

Table 1—Provisional Target Standard for Agricultural Products
Item Unit Standard set by our research group
Pesticide residue (mg/kg) ND
Heavy metal content Cd (mg/kg) <0.1
Pb (mg/kg) <0.1
As (mg/kg) <0.1
Cr (mg/kg) <0.1
Hg (mg/kg) <0.1
Nitrate ion brown rice (mg/kg) <10
soybean (mg/kg) <10
potato (mg/kg) <10
sweet potato (mg/kg) <10
spring onion (mg/kg) <500
cabbage (mg/kg) <800
lettuce (mg/kg) <800
Chinese cabbage (mg/kg) <1000
Chinese radish (mg/kg) <1000
leek (mg/kg) <1000
spinach (mg/kg) <1000
potherb mustard (mg/kg) <1000
mesclun greens (mg/kg) <1000
komatsuna (mg/kg) <2000
qing-geng-cai (mg/kg) <2000
mitsuba
(hydroponically-cultivated)
(mg/kg) <2000
mitsuba(水耕) (mg/kg) <3000
cucumber (mg/kg) <200
carrot (mg/kg) <50
green soybean (mg/kg) <50
tomato (mg/kg) <10
strawberry (mg/kg) <10
grape (mg/kg) <10
Table 2—Antioxidant Unit (AOU) Evaluation Standards
Antioxidative Potency (AOU)
ORAC (μmol/g) Show measured value and concentration level
Vitamin C (mg/100g) Show measured value
Total Polyphenol (mg/100g) Show measured value

3. Production Process

・Understand the Constituents of Cropland Soil

Determine the geological condition of the production area and perform soil analysis.

・Fertilizers and Compost

1. Basically, use fully fermented compost with componential analysis value.
2. Do not use compost that is not fully fermented.
3. Use fallen leaves, animal manure, disposed vegetables and waste food products for the production of compost.
4. Do not use sewage sludge compost or compost which includes sewage sludge (i.e., avoid contamination by heavy metals)
5. Be aware of the possibility of heavy metal accumulation in compost made with pig manure or poultry manure, and beware of farmland pollution caused by heavy metals (e.g. copper and zinc; such heavy metals are sometimes included in animal feed).
6. Analyze the manure component of compost. Analyze the amount of heavy metals and hazardous chemicals.
7. Use the appropriate amount of fertilizer depending on fertilizer component in the soil and types of crops that are planted in the farmland.
8. As a rule, use fully fermented compost. Use chemical fertilizer and mineral fertilizer to make up for any deficiency.

・Determination of fully fermented compost

1. Make sure ammonia is not present in the compost. It is important that all nitrogen components are converted to nitrates.
2. Make sure the compost is at the same temperature as the outside temperature.
3. Make sure that oxygen consumption has ceased.

・Pesticides

1. Minimize the amount (concentration) and the number of applications of pesticides. Maintain records of application.
2. Monitor the growth level of agricultural products and the condition of their environment so as to apply adequate amounts of pesticide (fungicide/herbicide) for a limited number of times.
3. As a rule, do not use pesticides for vegetables that will be eaten raw.
4. Make sure that no pesticide residue can be detected in agricultural products. The tolerance levels for pesticide residue set by the government are not effective, therefore they do not apply.
5. Note that the level of nitrates goes up by 1.5 to 1.8 times when pesticides are applied on leafy vegetables.
6. Try to develop a production method which does not require the use of pesticides.

・Seeds and Seedlings

1. Do not use genetically modified seeds.
2. Treasure local traditional vegetables, including root vegetables, and pass them on to future generations.

・Production and Distribution

1. Use recyclable materials and materials that easily and naturally decompose.
2. Maintain a recycling system of disposed agricultural products and used materials.

4. Energy

・Reduce the amount of chemical fuel usage.
・Increase the use of natural energy.
・Increase the use of recyclable energy.

5. Water

・Disclose the water supply source (tap water, underground water, river water).
・Maintain records of water analysis data.
・Ensure that the amount of water usage in the production and distribution of agricultural products is clear.
・Take measures to conserve water.
・Purify discharged water and improve water quality.

6. Social Responsibility

・Ensure good healthcare and hygiene for farm workers.
・Cooperate and collaborate with local communities and promote local production for local consumption.
・Ensure an environmentally-friendly distribution system.
・Conduct agricultural education efforts with farm workers and local communities.

7. Evaluation System for Agricultural Products

こTo follow and conduct the basic concepts of agricultural production above, we must build an evaluation system for agricultural products.

7.1 Aim

To develop and produce the world’s best agricultural products, promote collaboration with companies and universities to analyze soil, agricultural products, water, pesticide residues, heavy metal concentrations and nutritional value. Such analysis makes it possible to develop methods that will produce safe and palatable agricultural products and keep them fresh. We also aim to maintain the analyzed information as basic data and share it with others. Finally, we will promulgate standards of quality for agricultural products and will offer high-quality agricultural products and processed foods domestically and internationally.

7.2 Implementation Details

1. Establish analysis/evaluation techniques
     1. Perform soil analysis
     2. Perform water analysis
     3. Analyze agricultural products and their nutritional values
     4. Analyze pesticide residue
2. Organize workshops and review sessions
3. Establish quality standards for the world’s best agricultural products.
4. Distribute agricultural products domestically and internationally under a common brand name.

7.3 Research System

7.4 About the WTQAP Basis

This basis includes the important matters of JGAP.
In addition, we establish the definite self-standard for each agricultural product by the third party evaluation organization. We aim at producing higher quality agricultural products, and exporting them under a common brand name.

Appropriate farm management and practice to produce agricultural products

Agricultural products for high quality

7.5 Analysis and Evaluation Items

7.6 Professional Committee on Evaluation

An independent Professional Committee on Evaluation has been established in order to evaluate whether the WTQAP basis has been appropriately made, to evaluate the analyzed data and to evaluate the quality of produced agricultural products. The committee members (listed below) are responsible for ensuring that the system works properly. The committee structure includes a working division which gathers information, considers methods to evaluate constituent analysis and the accuracy of the information, and conducts constituent analysis and data analysis.

[ Members of the Professional Committee on Evaluation ]
The members of this committee include medical professionals, pharmaceutical professionals, ortho-molecular professionals, culinary professionals, chefs, business management professionals, representatives of our internal research group.