K.L. Heong, International Rice Research Institute, Los Baños, Philippines
The Green Revolution probably spared a billion people from famine. Food production increased from 800 million tons to 2.2 billion tons between 1960 and 2000. These achievements have consequences, such as environmental pollution (Unwelcome Harvests – Conway and Pretty 1991) from increased use of chemical fertilizer and pesticides. In addition, the impact of insecticides resulted in provoking outbreak pests such as the planthoppers and eroded biodiversity. The Way and Heong (1994) review of the role of biodiversity in rice insect pest management concluded that
“pest management should be based on the contention that insecticides are NOT needed rather than they are and that “pest” should be critically re assessed and “proven guilty” before insecticide use is contemplated”. Grain of Truth.
To meet the challenge of feeding a growing world population, there is no option except to intensify crop production and to do it smartly. In a recent FAO document “Save and Grow”, a new paradigm: Sustainable Crop Production Intensification (SCPI) is presented. The strategy aims at producing more from the same area of land while conserving resources, reducing negative impacts on the environment and enhancing natural capital the ecosystem services. For plant protection, SCPI promotes IPM that uses the ecosystem approach to anticipate potential pest problems associated with intensification and develop strategies (example ecological engineering) to maximize natural control mechanisms and reduce losses. Most tropical rice crops require NO insecticide use under intensification. Indonesia drastically reduced pesticide spending in rice production between 1988 and 2005, while rice production increased. However in the last 5 years, insecticide use has escalated and leading to persistent planthopper outbreaks. Government is implementing “operasi mandi pestisida” and advocating early preventive spraying of insecticides.
From thousands of rice farms in Vietnam, Thailand, China and the Philippines surveyed, farm yields seldom increase with insecticide spray increases. Often the relationships are not significant or negatively correlated. Sometimes the insecticide sprays increase yield variability. The promotion of prophylactic spraying by companies and government will increase crops’ vulnerability to hopperburn and the “Resurrection of the Green Revolution Ghost” that will continue to haunt the sustainability of intensive rice production in Asia.
In response to the threat of insecticide misuse to rice production, IRRI together with ADB, FAO and national program organized an International Conference that discussed the disconnect in the pesticide information supply chain, the non compliance to the FAO Code of Conduct and weak pesticide marketing regulations (house with no roof) that have promoted misuse and overuse. IRRI developed the Action Plan calling for actions to restore biodiversity through ecological engineering and improving policies and regulations in pesticide distribution and marketing. In June 2011, Thailand banned resurgence causing insecticides, such as cypermethrin and abamectin with the support of the private sector and Vietnam developed the new Circular 18 to control pesticide marketing. These actions will need to be intensified and sustained in order to allow biodiversity and ecosystem services to be restored to prevent planthopper outbreaks.
In the new paradigm SCPI, rice pest management should be based on the contention that insecticides are NOT needed rather than they are and only to be used when pests are “guilty” and only as the last resort.
Conway, G.R. and Pretty, J. 1991. Unwelcome Harvest – Agriculture and Pollution Earthscan Publications Ltd, London.