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A Better Way to Protect Farm Crops from Animals?

A group of Japanese high school students came up with a way to help farmers protect their crops from hungry wildlife. Their secret? Hemp, a plant that has been growing in their neighborhood for centuries.

A Better Way to Protect Farm Crops from Animals?

High school students harvesting a tall stand of hemp

Wild boar, deer, and other wild animals are a constant headache for farmers in Japan. Growing populations have made it more common for animals to come out of the woods and ravage the crops that farmers work so hard to grow. One interesting solution to this problem is being tested in eastern Japan's Tochigi Prefecture, where the situation is no different.

The region is a traditional producer of hemp, a plant used to make fiber, the basic material from which clothing is made. Hemp farmers have dwindled in modern times as hemp has been replaced by polyester and other synthetic fibers. Today, Tochigi is the only place left in Japan where hemp is still produced, and as you would expect, production here is declining.

This is where a group of students from Tochigi's agricultural high school come in. These students tried to think of a way to use their locally grown plant, hemp, to protect farm crops without killing wild animals. Their idea was to soak hemp rope in the extract of chili pepper--one crop animals hate--and stretch the rope around fields where crops are grown. By combining a plant long-used in Japan with something animals hate, the students thought they could possibly save both a dying local industry and the lives of animals. When they tested it out, they found the rope to be quite effective, so much so that the rope was marketed and is now being sold to farmers.

Says one of the Tochigi Agricultural High School students who developed the rope: "You could also use an electric or wire fence to repel animals, but these methods are costly and also difficult to install on the steep slopes of some farmlands. The hemp rope that we devised is convenient because even older farmers find it light and easy to work with."

Take a close look around you. Maybe you'll find a hint of the solution to a problem people in your own community are facing.

(March 22, 2012 3:50 PM)

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