Ho Van Chien, Director, Southern Regional Plant Protection Center, Long Dinh, Vietnam
Insecticide misuse has become a common practice in many rice growing countries and Vietnam is no exception. In a survey done recently we found that 58% of the insecticide sprays were carried out in the first 40 days. The three most common insecticides used were abamectin (17.%), “Chief” (chlorfluazuron+emamectin) (14.6%) and fenobucarb (14.6%). These early season sprays have little or no economic gains for farmers. Instead they make rice fields 10 times more vulnerable to hopperburn.
The Director General of Plant Protection Department, Dr Nguyen Xuan Hong, in a recent instruction (1775/BVTV-TTra dated 2 Nov 2011) to all directors Regional Centers and Provincial Departments brought to their attention that advertising campaigns of pesticide traders are encouraging routine spraying and the use of mixtures or “cocktails”. The letter was the result of several months of work of a task force chaired by vice minister Dr Bui Ba Bong, to evaluate pesticide misuse and regulations to develop interventions. The aggressive marketing activities have caused “disturbances” to government programs to promote sustainable pest management and are costing farmers more in production costs. In addition, the insecticide misuse can potentially cause massive pest outbreaks and adverse effects on the environment and human health. Dr Hong instructed the staff in all departments to immediately stop participation in pesticide promotion campaigns sponsored by the companies on TV, radio or throughthe mass media. They are to strengthen inspections and strict penalties on violations. An English translation of this administrative order from Dr Hong is available here.
This administrative order is the result of strong evidence that insecticide misuse is rampant in most parts of Vietnam and the continuation of such practices can threaten rice production. Today Vietnam is the second largest rice exporter after Thailand. The huge planthopper outbreaks induced by insecticide misuses that occurred in Thailand in 2009 and 2010 are important reminders for the need to curb insecticide misuses. These actions are also in line with IRRI’s action plan to prevent planthopper outbreaks. Planthopper outbreaks have also occurred in parts of Indonesia and mass spraying called “Mandi Pestisida” in contrast to policies in Vietnam and Thailand. In June 2011, Thailand’s Rice Department working with TABA (Thai Agro Business Association) banned cypermethrin and abamectin to be used in rice because they have high potentials to cause planthopper resurgence.
This administrative order signals a shift in paradigm in Vietnam recognizing that planthopper outbreaks are indeed insecticide induced and need ecological management approaches. Several provinces have been implementing ecological engineering to restore biodiversity and ecosystem services by planting nectar rich flowers on the bunds. Plant Protection Department is also recognizing that the root cause of insecticide misuse is weak regulations to control marketing of registered pesticides, like a “house with no roof” . The DG’s instructions will be the first steps towards restoring the “roof” to protect sustainable agriculture programs, such as “Ba Giam Ba Tang” (3 reductions 3 gains) and “Cong Nghe Sinh Thai” (ecological engineering). An International Conference on “Threats of Insecticide Misuse in Rice Ecosystems – Exploring Options for Mitigation” will be hosted by Vietnam on 16 December 2011 in Fortuna Hotel, Hanoi to explore for interventions. A recent review by Bottrell and Schoenly concluded that insecticides are the most tangible outbreak factors that cause planthopper outbreaks.
Joint FAO-IRRI workshop – Rice Planthopper Problems and Insecticide Use. 14-15 Dec 2011. Hanoi, Vietnam
K.L. Heong inducted into Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS), Trieste, Italy.
Geoff Gurr appointed Adjunct Professor in Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China