Department of Development Communication, Visayas State University, Leyte, Philippines
A new video (to watch it, click on this YouTube link) which showcases the principles of ecological engineering and its implementation in the IRRI farm and Vietnam has recently been released. The film presents the elements, approach and benefits of ecological engineering. The concept of maximizing the services of nature to curb pests, avoid environmental damage and to maintain a very sustainable rice production environment is gradually picking up popularity among some farmers in Asia who had applied ecological engineering in their rice fields. Ecological engineering techniques can enhance the sustainable biological control services that nature offers for free and reduce insecticide use.
One form of ecological engineering in rice production is habitat manipulation. It involves planting of beneficial plant species with nectar-rich flowers that can attract and provide food resources to a wide variety of natural enemies of pests such as parasitoids and predators. For instance in Thailand parasitoid biodiversity is doubled in ecological engineering fields.
Common species of flowering beneficial plants planted along the bunds belong include those from the families Compositae, Asteraceae, and Verbenaceae. However, other horticultural crops with good ratooning recovery or commercial values like okra and sesame can also be used. Even other common endemic flowering plant species that are growing naturally around rice fields and on the bunds can serve as beneficial plants.
Maintaining the cleanliness of the bunds need not be intensive for farmers since most of the beneficial plants are mostly non-perennial species and easy to grow Their seeds can be collected and sowed directly along the bunds. Other beneficial plant species can be trimmed short for ratooning.
Beneficial plants are planted ahead of time before the rice seedlings to have them established first for the natural enemies. The objective is to increase the diversity and population of parasitoids and predators to regulate populations of insect pests preventing them from growing to outbreak proportions, like planthoppers. With this approach the beneficial plants and natural enemies provide the ecosystem services to reduce vulnerability of the rice to pest attacks.
Through ecological engineering techniques, ecosystem services will be enhanced through increased habitat biodiversity, providing shelter, food resources and corridors for natural enemies. Thus the need to spray insecticides in the rice field is greatly reduced. With reduction in the use of insecticides in the field the natural ecology of the system is recovered and restored.
The ecological engineering approach can also add extra income to farmers from the the produce that they can get out of the beneficial plants such as sesame, vegetables and flowers and at the same time transforms the rice landscape into not only an agricultural site but as an aesthetically pleasing location for the community to enjoy especially when the plant flowers are in full bloom (cultural services).
The video was produced by Jude Nonie Sales, a video producer and instructor in visual design and educational communication technology at the Visayas State University, Philippines.