Digital maps to aid Japan's buckwheat production

A Japanese government-backed organization is launching a project to help grow more buckwheat in Japan.

Buckwheat noodles, or soba, have been a staple food in Japan for centuries. But the price of buckwheat is soaring due to lower production in China, and the effects of the war in Ukraine.

Japan imports about 70 percent of the buckwheat seeds it needs. The new project will help find the best land in the country for growing the crop. NHK has learned that the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization will produce digital maps to show areas fit for cultivation.

One challenge is finding soil with good drainage, as buckwheat is sensitive to too much water.

The group will analyze geographical features to find the right kind of soil. It will then estimate likely buckwheat output, and create maps for parcels of land 500 meters square.

The maps will identify three types of areas using different colors. One would be suitable for growing, another would require moisture-control measures first, and a third would be unsuitable.

The group says it will start the project this month in the northern prefecture of Akita, a major buckwheat producing region. It will then cover other prefectures, and eventually complete maps for areas nationwide.