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'Gardening Rafts' Tested for Ability to Purify Reservoir 2002-01-02

The Oita Prefectural Bureau of Public Enterprises has launched an experimental test to improve the quality of water in the Kitagawa Dam reservoir in Ume Town, Oita Prefecture, by employing floating raft gardens 9.3 meters x 16.4 meters. The rafts are planted with vegetables in order to absorb nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous. An excess of these nutrients can cause eutrophication and generate unnatural blooms of blue-green algae. Kankun, a Chinese vegetable, is grown on the rafts in summer and other seasonal vegetables, such as greens, daikon radish, etc., are grown in winter.

The Kitagawa Reservoir Environmental Promotion Council is in charge of supervising the rafts and vegetable gardens. Represented on the council are Oita Prefecture and its Bureau of Public Enterprises and Ume Town, as well as Kitagawa Town located in neighboring Miyazaki Prefecture, together with fisheries cooperatives in these two towns. The council planted 1,200 kankun seedlings on the rafts on August 5, 2004.

Kankun is a vegetable native to China that has a hollow stem and roots that grow over a meter long. Though it is nutritious, highly heat tolerant, and used in Chinese and other cuisines, kankun production in Japan is still low.

Original kankun recipe cooking and tasting events are planned for after the harvest. It is expected that kankun will become a specialty of the region, as well as an eco-friendly water purifying solution.

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