Manit Luecha, Director Chainat Rice Seed Center, Chainat, Thailand
Pranee Chomun, Chainat Rice Seed Center, Thailand
KL Heong, International Rice Research Institute, Los Baños Philippines
The brown planthopper (BPH) that also carry virus diseases has caused huge losses in rice production in Thailand during the 2009/2010 seasons. The Thai government has to revise the rice production forecast by 16% from 8.3 million tons to 7 millions (https://ricehoppers.net/2010/01/28/thailand-cuts-second-crop-rice-output-forecasts-by-16-because-of-bph-and-water-shortage/ ). In addition the government would like to stop spreading the insect vector and diseases in areas of 398,000 rais about 63,680 hectares has provided 1,156 millions Baht about US$ 36 millions as compensation to farmers for clear or plough their crop that were affected . (https://ricehoppers.net/2010/02/10/thai-government-to-provide-b2bn-to-compensate-farmers-hit-by-bph/ ). However, the compensation of about 2,280 Baht per rai or US$440 per hectare is hardly enough for farmers to pay off their debts, finance land preparation and seed costs to start replanting. We met a farmer in Tabol Banglarng in Suphan Buri province who had this nasty experience.
Mr Vichian Insawang, 50, has been farming his 50 rai (8 ha) that he inherited for more than 30 years. Last season he planted Pathum Tani 1 in 23 rai (3.7 ha) and when he heard about planthopper attacks in the northern provinces and started spraying his fields with insecticides hoping to prevent attacks. He had sprayed his crop 10 times applying them in cocktail mixtures of a variety of products including abamectin, cypermethrin, chlorpyrifos, BPMC and several others he could not recall their names. These insecticides were recommended to him by the local pesticide shopkeeper. He spent about 3000 to 4000 baht per rai (or US$ 320 to 400 per ha) in pesticide purchases and sprayed the fields himself. However he resulted in losing more than 70% of his harvest because his crop was badly destroyed by planthoppers and virus diseases. He only grossed 40,300 bahts (~US$1250) which was insufficient to cover his input costs. He had borrowed 100,000 baht (or US$3100) at 6% per annum interest and has no means to repay. When the Permanent Secretary of Agriculture who visited the area learned about his predicament he requested the banks to extend credits, which they did, to farmers who had lost their crops. In addition the government provided a 2,280 Bahts/rai (or US$440 per ha) compensation grant and free seeds for the next season to allow their virus infested fields to be plowed under by authorities.
When we asked him what he would do to avoid loss in the next season, Mr Vichian said that he would be more vigilant which might probably prompt him to begin insecticide applications early in the season. Mr Vichian’s field the following season was similarly attacked by BPH and likely to incur low yields (Picture below).
Mr Vichian is one of thousands of rice farmers in Central Thailand in the same predicament. They rely only on pesticides for pest management and use them in a prophylactic manner which predisposes their crop to invading planthoppers. Rice crops sprayed in the early crop periods are generally more vulnerable to hopper attacks (https://ricehoppers.net/2009/09/13/farms-that-apply-insecticides-for-leaf-folder-control-are-10-times-more-at-risk-to-hopperburn/ ). Most farmers depend on the advice and recommendations of the pesticide retail shopkeepers and end up using insecticides that have high visual kill effects and less expensive which are also extremely toxic to natural control agents. The prophylactic sprays destroy ecosystem services and make their crops vulnerable to rapid increase of hopper invaders that often lead to hopperburn.