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Mongabay Explains: How ducks aid sustainable rice cultivation

  • This Mongabay Explains’ episode examines the agroecology method of aigamo, where ducks are introduced into rice fields to provide weed and pest control, plus free fertilizer, for the grains.
  • Originating in Asia, it’s been successfully adapted at a rice farm in Vermont, which is now training other farmers in the sustainable technique to boost the production of rice in the region.
  • Agroecology is a set of sustainable agricultural techniques modeled upon natural ecosystems that also applies ancient growing traditions developed by Indigenous, traditional and local communities.

A pioneering rice farm in Vermont has embraced the agroecological technique known as “aigamo method,” which introduces ducks into rice fields to offer natural weed and pest control, along with essential fertilization for the grains.

The Aigamo Method: Ducks as rice farmers | Mongabay Explains

Originating in Japan, where ducks have long played a crucial role in rice farming, the aigamo method was pioneered by Japanese farmer Takao Furuno in the 1980s as an innovative, chemical-free approach to agriculture.

The success of the aigamo method in Asia drew the attention of farmers worldwide. In 2010, this novel technique caught the interest of a Vermont farmer, Erik Andrus, setting the stage for a unique experiment in the heart of New England. 

The journey began with the selection of cold-tolerant Hokkaido rice varieties from Japan and the introduction of mulard ducks, known for their exceptional foraging skills. The process begins in the spring with rice planting in nurseries and concludes in the fall with the processing of grains, yielding rich, nutritious and organic rice ready for sale.

Beyond achieving success, the farm is actively engaged in training fellow farmers in these sustainable methods, transforming underutilized wet fields into thriving rice fields that benefit both agriculture and wildlife.


More episodes are available on Mongabay Explains’ YouTube playlist.

Banner image courtesy of Boundbrook Farm.

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