A platform for regenerative agriculture is needed to mitigate the adverse effects of population growth, climate change and disaster, and change in style of food. This project targets sustainable agriculture of soybean (one of the main future foodstuffs) by constructing a soil environment that effectively uses the functions of microbes, and to identify new soil health indicators for regenerative agriculture in general. We plan to construct a soil microbe atlas (database) by (1) collecting comprehensive information on biological, chemical, and physical factors that affect soil health, (2) archiving genome data of useful microbes, and (3) comprehending the interactions between plants and microbes. Thereafter, we will simulate ideal soil environment based on the multi-omics big data to construct a future “platform for sustainable farming through environmental control”.

We have established a consortium of five research groups with the aim of understanding complex interactions between plants, soil, and the environment. The eventual goal is radically refining current agricultural practices by controlling these interactions. We aim agricultural innovation by promoting the creation of a system for agriculture management by maintaining soil health based on the “platform for sustainable farming through environmental control”.

Microbiome deep interaction analysis 01-1 Microbiome deep interaction analysis

There are a variety of microbes in the soil, rhizosphere, and plants, and they have a significant impact on plant growth and health. Using cutting-edge technologies such as single-cell genomics and Raman-micro spectroscopy, we will collect and analyze information on microbial genomes inhabiting variety types of soils, and create a database called the “Soil Microbe Atlas” (Waseda University).
We will try to understand plant-microbe interactions by monitoring soil and plant conditions using our sensors, and to elucidate factors that contribute to soil health and robustness (HORIBA, Ltd.).
By studying the process of converting marine waste into fertilizer through microbial fermentation, we will effectively utilize marine resource residues and demonstrate a regenerative agricultural model that connects the sea to the land (Marine Open Innovation Institute:MaOI).

Microbiome deep interaction analysis 01 -2 Circulating system of minerals in soil

Our group undertakes the task of developing the circulating system of elements including phosphorus, nitrogen, and minerals so as to serve the productivity of soybeans. The mission is to produce food by resources recycling, by means of recovering phosphorus, nitrogen, and minerals efficiently from such as sewage, and waste of aquatic and agricultural products, and then applying them as microbial inoculant for agricultural use in soybean production. To improve features of microbial inoculant will make it possible to supply phosphorus, nitrogen, and minerals stably as well as to enhance disease resistance for plants. We utilize the culture collection of microorganisms owned by Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, the technologies for forming microbial inoculant developed by ASAHI AGRIA CO., LTD., and the phosphorus recovery material developed by Taiheiyo Cement Corporation in order to develop microbial inoculant. We also try to make a contribution to advancing productivity and reducing the use of fertilizer in soybean production by development of prototype microbial inoculant, enhancement of microbial inoculant, validation of model crop field in soybean cultivation, comparative verification of soybean cultivations in characteristically different fields using microbial inoculant.

02 Crop production group

The role of our group is to develop crops that can adapt environmental changes. For this objective we will cooperate with groups of soil microbe analysis and essential element utilization including phosphate.
We will propose cultivation conditions to optimize the plants’ abilities to uptake elements and nutrients from fertilizers, prevention from soil diseases, adaptation to environmental changes. We collaborate Waseda University on rhizosphere microbe analysis to identify microbes those affect soybean growth.
We will identify plant genes those are involving in plant-rhizobacteria interaction using soybean mutant collections. By using them we aim to establish soybean with resistance to damage by repeated mono-cultivation and with high breeding value.
We also establish crop breeding foundation with Dr. Miyoshi and Dr. Wada groups to prepare future environmental changes by using growth chambers with variable environmental conditions.

03Environmental control and measurement

The control of environment assumes influence on the phenotype and genotype of plants, the genome plasticity, and the degeneration of photoreceptor. The active research on the influence of environmental factors on the cultivation of plants is required to accomplish high-efficient agricultural technology and to avoid the declining agricultural production caused by the global warming and climate changes.
Environmental control and measurement group aims to acquire omics information and to identify environmental factors related to gene expression and genome plasticity. Therefore, we are developing a plant cultivation system that enables precise control of various environment parameters. Optical systems based on laser spectroscopy will be also developed to measure the activity of photosynthesis, the growth process of plant, and the condition of soil environment.
The accumulation of accurate tests on control and measurement of environment can be a foundation for the future development of agricultural technologies, for instance, the construction of very large floating structure (VLFS), the use of outer space, circulating agriculture, which are required to prevent yield decrease and famine caused by unusual weather phenomena.

04Social science group

Group 4 aims to develop an effective strategy to facilitate social implementation of the new technologies invented in this project. For this purpose, we explore social demand for hypothetical technologies and food items, such as healthy soil and new soybean products, by using discrete choice experiments, eye tracking, and face expression recognition techniques. We also conduct an impact evaluation to measure economic and social influences expected from the social implementation.
We will start from investigating an effective strategy to introduce and spread the new technologies facilitating healthy soil in Japan. In particular, we will focus on the organic soybean market as a promising market to spread the new technologies. We also investigate social acceptance toward food production using unfamiliar technologies such as reused phosphatic fertilizer and floating farms.

05Cultivation management group

Technological innovation has been demanded in order to achieve a sustainable crop production fed the growing human population without generating environmental burdens. The subgroup 5 aims to develop an “Agroecosystem engineering system” that simulate crop production in cyberspace utilizing integrated reduction models with large-scale digital data by field multiomics. The Agroecosystem engineering system integrates weather prediction and soil data to provide the best solution for the farming management practice. The system will allow farmers to produce crops with high yield and high quality without any empirical knowledge and minimize their environmental impacts.