Professor, Zhejiang University
The Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) of China has approved a 30 million yuan (~ US$4.4 million) research proposal for 5 years to develop innovative ways to manage rice planthoppers. The consortium, led by Zhejiang University, comprises of Nanjing Agricultural University, Zhong-shan University, Plant Protection Institute of CAAS, China National Rice Research Institute, Institute of Plant Physiology and Ecology of CAS, Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences and Yangzhou University. A 2006 planthopper workshop organized by Prof J Cheng of Zhejiang University, Prof JY Xia of the NATESC (National Agro Technology Extension and Services Center) and Dr K.L. Heong of IRRI first initiated this development. The project will support fundamental research in 6 areas, including migration, rice-planthopper interactions, insecticide resistance and resurgence, virus-vector interactions, planthopper genomics and ecosystem regulation.
Each year the MOST National Basic Research Program of China (973 Program) provides funds for fundamental research to address problems related to national sustainable development, such as agriculture, energy, environment, materials science, IT and human health. It is called “973 program” since the plan was first initiated by the 3rd meeting of national leaders for science and technology in 1997. In general, each 973 project has two phases of 5 years each. At the end of the first phase, the project will be reviewed for extension into phase 2 for another 5 years with an additional 30 million yuan budget support.
The rice planthoppers remain the biggest threat to sustainability of rice production in China. Clear signs from the effects of unsustainable practices are now intensifying in most of the high production areas. Planthoppers are developing multiple fold resistance to many insecticides , outbreaks are getting more frequent and more intense and reliance on insecticides is at its worst and a new virus disease in hybrid rice vectored by the white backed planthopper has been identified. In Zhejiang province, planthopper populations have increased by more than 20 folds from 2000. As planthoppers respond to increase of temperatures at autumn, climate change effects is likely to intensify these pest outbreaks.
The growth rates of BPH immigrants had been about 1000 folds before but is now about 5000 folds in recent years because of the changes in cropping patterns, elevated temperatures, new rice varieties and depleted ecosystem functions.
Recognizing the severity of the planthopper threat and that such problems need a broader based of approaches ranging from genetic to landscape management, the MOST has made a long term commitment to finding sustainable solutions. The 973 Planthopper project will link with the ADB-IRRI Rice Planthopper Project to develop synergistic activities. While the 973 project aims at addressing fundamental research aspects, the ADB-IRRI project is focused more on behavioral and practice changes and impact. Also the ADB-IRRI project is multi country and thus research outputs from the 973 project can be shared with other Asian country partners. In October 2009, scientists involved in the 2 projects met in Zhejiang University to develop a synergistic program of activities to include joint training programs, joint conferences (namely a symposium on rice planthoppers in the 2011 International Plant Protection Congress), scientist exchange programs and joint research on topics of mutual interests in planthopper ecology, plant-pest inter-relationships, virus-vector epidemiology, insecticide resistance and planthopper migration in the region.