International Rice Research Institute, Los Baños, Philippines
Michael James Way, known to many of us as Professor Way, passed away in England on 18 January 2011 at the age of 89 after a short illness. He is survived by his wife Isobel, son, Robert and daughter, Katherine. The world has lost a great man and an IPM champion who has devoted most of his life’s work to develop IPM methods to rationalize and reduce insecticide use, mentoring students, helping and nurturing scientists in the developing countries. He had served in the FAO Panel of Experts on IPC, participated in numerous missions to develop IPM in Asia and Africa.
Professor Way has been a mentor and inspiration to many entomologists throughout the world, especially those involved in IPM. His contributions to ecological based insect management are enormous and far ranging, from aphids, brown planthoppers to coconut and cocoa pests. Noted for his fascination of ants, Professor Way has made numerous scientific contributions highlighting the role of ants in pest suppressions. Indeed his last contribution to science was a paper on ants in rice fields, which I am proud and honored to be the co author (Way and Heong, 2009).
In the 1990s Professor Way, retired, was a visiting scientist at IRRI for 5 years, spending 3 months a year away from the UK winter to wade through hot and muddy rice fields in Victoria, Laguna, Philippines. We were working to understand the role of bunds in the rice ecosystem. During that period he wrote a classic which I am also honored to be associated with (Way and Heong 1994), on the role of biodiversity in rice pest management. Indeed this work and the ideas developed have formed the scientific foundations of the ecological engineering approach that is now promoted. It was clear then and “We conclude(d) that IPM in tropical irrigated rice should be based on the contention that insecticides are not needed rather than that they are, and that ‘pests’ should now be critically re-assessed and proven guilty before insecticide use is contemplated“.
I remember fondly the hours of heated discussions in the field, in the labs and in the IRRI guest house we had as we explored the unique ecological properties in rice ecosystems (these have come to be known as “ecosystem services”) and that insecticide sprays will do far more harm in creating secondary pests than any other factor. This conclusion is now more needed than ever as prophylactic (or pre emptive strikes) has now become the norm in many intensive rice areas creating the “pesticide tsunami” and increasing the vulnerability of rice crops to planthopper outbreaks. We also concluded that “.. the insecticide-based approach is not only harmful to natural controls but is costly and mostly demands impracticable decision making by farmers on need-based use”.
Professor Way will be remembered by most as a kind, patient teacher who cared and would spend numerous hours discussing science, ecology and IPM; as a field ecologist who would spend days in the field observing insects to unravel the biological mysteries to us then to improve field management of pests; as an intellectual and author who has made significant contributions to entomological sciences; as a leader who has significantly contributed towards promoting IPM and ecological based pest management approaches; as a visionary who saw great values in understanding and conserving biodiversity in pest management and most of all as a great friend. I lost a mentor and friend whom I have been privileged to meet 34 years ago. The world has lost a biodiversity and IPM champion.
Way, M.J. and Heong, K.L. 1994. The role of biodiversity in the dynamics and management of insect pests of tropical irrigated rice – a review. Bulletin of Entomological Research, 84, 567–587.
Way, M.J. and Heong, K.L. 2009. Significance of the tropical fire ant Solenopsis geminata (hymenoptera: formicidae) as part of the natural enemy complex responsible for successful biological control of many tropical irrigated rice pests. Bulletin of Entomological Research, 99, 503–512.