Towards the partial resumption of agriculture with buckwheat cultivation in fields physically decontaminated of radioactive cesium after the nuclear power plant accident in 2011: a case study in Yamakiya District, Fukushima

Yamakiya District in the town of Kawamata, Fukushima Prefecture, was evacuated after the nuclear accident at the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in 2011. Since then, nuclear decontamination procedures have been applied to the surrounding environment, including agricultural fields. The decontamination procedure for agricultural fields consists of the removal of radiation-contaminated surface soil, followed by soil dressing and plowing. However, radioactive cesium (RCs) remains in the soil even after decontamination. In this study, we investigated the effect of applying nitrogen, potassium fertilizers, and cattle manure compost on buckwheat growth and the concentration of RCs in the grain of buckwheat cultivated in a decontaminated field from 2014 to 2016. Applications of potassium fertilizer and cattle manure compost increased the soil exchangeable potassium content and decreased the RCs concentration in the grain of buckwheat cultivated in the decontaminated field. Before the cultivation of the first buckwheat crop, the RCs concentration in soil varied widely and there were ‘hot spots’ with high RCs concentrations because of insufficient mixing of the original and the dressed soils. Therefore, soil had to be adequately mixed to avoid producing grain with a high RCs concentration. Buckwheat grew better when supplied with more nitrogen fertilizer than the conventional amount at the first cultivation, indicating that the dressed soil had low fertility. We also monitored buckwheat cultivation by local farmers in decontaminated fields from 2015 to 2017. By using potassium fertilizer, the farmers produced buckwheat grain with low RCs concentrations from 2015 to 2017.