M. Casimero, International Rice Research Institute, Myanmar
Min Aung, Myanmar Rice Federation, Yangon, Myanmar,
S. Villareal, J. Catindig and K.L. Heong, International Rice Research Institute, Los Baños, Philippines
Insecticide misuse is widespread in rice production in most Asian countries. About 80% of farmers’ insecticide sprays maybe considered as misuse as they are applied at the wrong time using wrong chemicals and for the wrong targets. In addition most spray equipment used has poor delivery and thus large proportions of the sprays are wasted and do not reach the pest targets. More importantly these sprays disrupt natural control mechanisms making rice ecosystems vulnerable to pest build ups. Pests such as the planthoppers are usually low in numbers and would only become pest problems when induced by insecticide misuse. A recent ADB working paper, published in August 2013 highlights these issues and outlines a new path for plant protection services to be reformed and pest management to adopt an ecological engineering approach.
Political changes in Myanmar are having positive effects on the economy and this can impact on pesticide imports and farmers usage. Used wisely pesticides can bring about positive productivity gains to famers. However if used wrongly they can cause planthopper outbreaks as discussed by Bottrell and Schoenly (2011), economic loss, miseries to farmers and pose as health and environmental hazards.
Recent planthopper outbreaks in Asia can be linked to the increase in insecticide use in these areas. In Indonesia for instance, insecticide imports increased by 5400% from 1990 to 2009 (Heong et al 2013). Increases in farmers’ insecticide use are due to aggressive marketing strategies to push the sale of pesticides as FMCG (fast moving consumer goods), quite contradictory to the FAO code of conduct that has resulted from weak and dysfunctional governance of pesticide distribution (house with no roof).
Changes in Myanmar also present unique opportunities to adopt a new path in developing new plant protection paradigms and services that is more sustainable, environmentally and socially sound. Lessons from the Green Revolution as well as the recent planthopper outbreaks all over Asia can be used to develop this new path. An International Symposium on Ecological Engineering in rice pest management was held in Yangon on 11 November 2013. Organized by IRRI in collaboration the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation (MOAI), the Myanmar Rice Federation (MRF) and sponsored by ADB, the Symposium also launched the award winning documentary film, “Hopper Race” produced by TV Environment Japan. Speeches via video were presented by Sir Gordon Conway of the UK, Dr Robert Zeigler, Director General of the IRRI and Professor Geoff Gurr, Charles Sturt University, Australia. Sir Gordon spoke about the lessons from the Green Revolution and Dr Zeigler about the unique opportunity for Myanmar to lead the world in developing better pest management strategies for rice. Professor Gurr spoke on how ecological engineering can be used to conserve the unique natural richness in biodiversity and ecosystem services in rice ecosystems. Dr George Rothschild, former IRRI Director General and now professor emeritus in the University of Greenwich, UK in his keynote address emphasized the need for Myanmar to focus on developing a governance framework that will prevent pesticide misuse. This framework will include pesticide laws and enforcement, accreditation programs for plant protection professionals and pesticide retailers and capacity building in MOAI and the universities.
Dr KL Heong, a consultant at IRRI, presented data showing that farmers’ insecticide sprays have little or no productivity gains. Instead they make rice systems vulnerable to hopper outbreaks and farmers are better off not using any insecticides as emphasized by FAO’s “Save and Grow” document. Dr Larry Wong spoke on the dominance of the pesticide detailers in information supply chain resulting in the untrained village retailers acting as the pest advisors and pesticide suppliers. Pesticides are poisons but are being sold as FMCGs. Dr Lu Zhongxian, Mr Le Quoc Cuong and Ms Wantana S. spoke of successes in the implementation of ecological engineering in China, Vietnam and Thailand, respectively. Dr Monina Escalada emphasized the need to communicate to the millions of farmers using the mass media and effectiveness in using entertainment-education principles in developing radio and TV programs for farmers.
The new path for plant protection services in Myanmar would require an innovative structure equipped with pest information, pest diagnostics and accreditation programs. Dr W.H. Loke described how CABI’s PLANTWISE (PW) program will help provide the framework for plant protection services with these elements. He also reported that PW will begin operating in Myanmar training certified plant doctors from 2014.
“Hopper Race” is an awarding winning documentary film produced by Ms Juka Kawaai of TV Environment Japan in collaboration with ADB and IRRI. The film won the “Matsukawa Award for Best Documentary” this year and the Myanmar language version developed for national broadcasts was launched in the Symposium.
In the welcome remarks of the minister of agriculture HE U Myint Hlaing delivered by Dr Thein Lwin, he thanked ADB an IRRI for organizing the important event that will help Myanmar move towards adopting sustainable pest management. Dr U Sein Win Hlaing, vice president of MRF said that Myanmar is in good position to follow a new path through learning from experiences of neighboring countries.
Bottrell, D.G and Schoenly, K.G. 2012. Resurrecting the ghost of green revolutions past: The brown planthopper as a recurring threat to high-yielding rice production in tropical Asia. Journal of Asia-Pacific Entomology 15, 122–140 (pdf)
Heong, K.L, Wong, L. and Delos Reyes, J.H. 2013. Addressing planthopper pest outbreak threats to the sustainable development of Asian rice farming and food security: Fixing the insecticide misuse. ADB Sustainable Development Working paper # 27. ADB, Manila, Philippines. (pdf )