International Rice Research Institute, Los Baños, Philippines
A few days ago Professor Dale Bottrell of the University of Maryland brought to my attention this important event. In October 1959 the Integrated Pest Control (IPC) concept was first published by Vernon M. Stern, Ray F. Smith, Robert van den Bosch and Kenneth S. Hagen in Hilgardia, a publication of the University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. It was exactly 50 years ago. The University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources, News and Information Outreach recently published “The 50th anniversary of a great idea”, recalling how these four pioneering scientists deviate from the norm and outlined a new way of thinking about pest control, establishing a pest management framework that made significant changes in many parts of the world.
The scientists proposed 4 basic principles that are essential to achieve sustainable pest management. In today’s agriculture, more than ever, these principles are most applicable:
- Recognition that agriculture is part of the larger ecosystem, comprised of all the living organisms of an area and their environment.
- Supervision of insect levels so chemical applications take place only when and where they are absolutely necessary.
- Promotion of beneficial insects through conservation and augmentation.
- Use of products and application timing to target specific pests, minimizing the effect of treatment on pests’ natural enemies.
IPM, introduced to rice production in later1970s, contributed significantly to rationalizing pesticide use. Training and media programs in the 1990s reached millions of rice farmers, reducing their insecticide use by more than 50%, increasing farmers’ profits and reducing their exposure to toxic pesticides. Rice production in Asia had enjoyed a period of minimal pest outbreaks and the success in rice has been frequently cited. However in the last few years, the pest that had threatened the Green Revolution in Asia, the brown planthopper (BPH), is beginning to show up in outbreaks in some of the intensive cultivation areas in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Japan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. Read the various reports in this blog. In addition another planthopper species, the white backed planthopper (WBPH) which had been a minor problem has become a major concern in many areas. In temperate China, another species, the smaller brown planthopper (sBPH) is doing more damage than ever before. Planthopper species have also developed multiple fold resistance to some insecticide active ingredients, like imidacloprid. For details of that report, click here.
Perhaps the years when IPM had been successful had led to complacency, reduced support and neglect. Has IPM become a victim of its own success? Today unnecessary spraying of insecticides in rice production is higher than ever before (see report on that here) which often leads to the destruction of essential ecosystem services. Plant protection structure and policies continue to favor the “yin” forces thus creating a conducive environment that encourages unnecessary insecticide spraying (see report of that here). On the 50th anniversary of the IPM concept, we now need to re invent IPM as the 4 basic principles that Stern et al (1959) proposed are needed more than ever in our attempts to reduce poverty and protect environmental sustainability.