Zhu Zeng Rong and Zhou Wen-Wu
Institute of Insect Sciences, Zhejiang University
Hangzhou, Zhejiang 310058, China
Zhejiang University, in recognition of Dr Heong’s recent induction to the Academy of Science for the Developing World (TWAS), invited him to give the Foreign Academician Lecture on 5 December 2011. This is part of China’s Ministry of Education’s program to introduce new talent and ideas into Chinese universities. Zhejiang is one of China’s largest universities with well over 50,000 students with active research in rice pest management. The lecture, entitled “Ecological engineering – Strategy to restore biodiversity and ecosystem services for pest management in rice production” was held in the University’s new Zi Jin Giang campus and attended by about 200 students, faculty, post docs and staff.
In the lecture Dr Heong spoke about the threats of insecticide misuse on biodiversity which contribute to the current flurry of rice planthopper outbreaks in Asia. More than 3 million hectares have been damaged and thousands of farmers suffer from crop failures. Such events will continue to dominate rice production in Asia unless drastic steps are taken to control insecticide misuse. Dr Heong presented compelling research evidence from many countries to show that rice yields are not dependent on insecticide use and in most cases the unnecessary sprays bring more harm to the rice food web. Insecticides tend to disorganize food web structures that favor r strategist pests such as planthoppers. He cited the case in IRRI farm where insecticide use was reduced by 96%, arthropod biodiversity doubled and pest outbreaks had become a rarity.
Insecticide misuse is caused by unregulated marketing practices using FMCG (fast Moving Consumer Goods) selling tactics which violate all IPM principles. Such practices are also in violation of the FAO code of conduct. He illustrated the current situation to that of a “house with no roof”, where sustainable pest management practices are “washed” away. He urged students and scholars to adopt a broader outlook in research and education in order to see pest problems beyond the biological elements and into landscape, sociological, economical and political dimensions.