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Shipment of ducklings to eat weeds, pests at rice fields peaks in west Japan

Ducklings, bred to help grow rice organically, are seen at a breeding facility in the city of Matsubara, Osaka Prefecture, in this recent photo. (Mainichi/Naohiro Yamada)

MATSUBARA, Osaka -- The shipment of ducklings to help grow rice organically by having them eat weeds and pests in fields has reached a peak at a facility that breeds the animals in this western Japan city.

The company, Tsumura Honten, ships about 5,000 young birds to rice farmers across Japan in May and June every year. However, the number of orders has decreased by 10% to 20% this year due to poor business conditions amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Daisuke Tsumura, 29, who is in charge of breeding the animals, a crossbreed between wild and domestic ducks, said, "I hope they will do a good job at rice fields to help produce safe food in these tough times."

Using ducks to grow rice organically costs about three times more than the common way of using agricultural chemicals, but the method has been strongly supported by farmers who prioritize food safety. The ducks' droppings become fertilizer and the water temperature in fields is stabilized as the birds mix it with their webbed feet.

(Japanese original by Naohiro Yamada, Osaka Photo Department)

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