Harvest season over, the fields are left with only stubble poking up from the soil. In contrast to the golden sea of ripened stalks, they seem lonely. But the work of growing sake rice is not over. The important task of preparing the fields for next season lies ahead.
Rice plants absorb nutrients from the soil, depleting the land. Soil left in this state will not produce healthy rice the following year. Nutrients must be replenished after each growing season, but the amount of compost required varies according to the condition of the soil. It takes skill to evaluate the just-harvested crop, the weather and other factors, and precisely determine the right amount.
Two to three weeks after harvest, roughly a ton of rich, organic compost is spread over the stubble fields. Rotary tiller machines simultaneously mix the compost into the soil and bury the old stalks in the warm earth, where they will decompose, adding to the nutrients for next year's crop.
Nowadays, as farm use of compost-producing horses and cows has given way to technological advances, farmers generally use chemical fertilizer. The Aji no Sato Production Cooperative is different. It uses traditional organic compost in its fields. Few farmers in the prefecture add compost at such early stages of soil preparation. To do so requires time and work, but the farmers spare no effort to create the best quality of sake rice. We benefit greatly from the bounty of the harvest, and this inspires us to cultivate our rice in an eco-friendly manner.