Kukiat Soitong, Wantana Srirattanasak, and Pornsiri Saenakus
Rice Department, Chatuchak, Bangkhen, Thailand
Researchers and technology transfer specialists held a two-day retreat in Kui Buri to develop plans to further scale up ecological engineering to reach more farmers. In the last few seasons, ecological engineering techniques to populate bunds and surrounding areas with flowering plants, gourds, legumes and vegetables have been evaluated in several rice research stations. Results showed that parasitoid biodiversity increased and insecticide use could be reduced markedly. In March, the Rice Department launched the Sustainable Planthopper Initiative in Chainat where ecological engineering demos were introduced to farmers. In the months that followed, ecological engineering activities intensified. In June 2011, the Rice Department working with the Thai Agrobusiness Association (TABA) launched a campaign to “stop the use of abamectin and cypermethrin” in rice. An international panel developed a 6 point plan to reduce insecticide misuse in Thailand. These two active ingredients, both with planthopper resurgence properties, had been sold to farmers and they constitute more than 50% of farmers’ insecticide sprays in Central Thailand.
Ecological engineering involves both restoring biodiversity as well as stopping the destruction of biodiversity. The two components are the main principles of Thailand’s planthopper management initiative and need to be communicated to all farmers. The 60 participants of the “Ecological Engineering Workshop” met in Kui Buri to brainstorm and develop an implementation strategy. Khun Kukiat introduced the Participatory Spectrum as the framework for transferring ecological engineering concepts and techniques and outlined the steps towards achieving the adoption goals. Dr K.L. Heong discussed the ecological concepts that contribute to planthpper outbreaks and the role that ecological engineering techniques will play to restore resilience. The development of a communication strategy and materials to motivate farmers for action was discussed by Dr M.M. Escalada, who shared the upscaling experiences from Vietnam.
Planthopper populations in most of Central Thailand have declined in the last two months. This is partly because of the wide spread floods that have affected 23 provinces, 1,923,920 people and caused 152 deaths (See Report on 24 September 2011). Rice production incurred an estimate loss on 3 million tons.
Floods can also devastate ecosystem services and when the water recedes rice fields can be vulnerable to planthopper invasions and vulnerability is further increased if insecticide misuse would continue. The factors that contribute to insecticide misuse still persist (house with no roof and farmers will still use prophylactic sprays) and with rice prices increasing, the next crop after the floods can be equally vulnerable to planthopper outbreaks.