Los Baos, Philippines A small insect that has devastated millions of hectares of rice in southern China and Vietnam over the past few yearscausing the loss of thousands of tons of the grain at a crucial time for global productionis the focus of a critical and timely conference this week in the Philippines.
Problems caused by planthoppers, a major type of rice pest that can destroy one-fifth of a harvest, have intensified across Asia in recent years. Major outbreaks in Vietnam in 2007 contributed to recent dramatic rises in the cost of rice, which have threatened to push millions of people deeper into poverty. If not effectively controlled, these pests could hamper rice production and help keep prices high.
Sustained increases in productivity are needed to ensure affordable, plentiful rice for the 3 billion people who depend on it. However, a steady dwindling of funding for public rice research over the past 15 years has stifled research to develop sustainable management practices that help farmers control pests.
A report on the front page of the 18 May New York Times revealed that scientists at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) have the know-how to develop rice that can withstand several strains of the devastating pest and integrate resistant varieties with ecological control methods. But, with resources drying up, the research efforts are on hold.
Planthoppers are normally kept in check by naturally occurring biological phenomena, such as other animals that prey on the pest. In the 1970s and 1980s, planthoppers threatened rice intensification programs in Indonesia, Thailand, India, the Solomon Islands, and the Philippines.
IRRI organized the first brown planthopper (BPH) international conference in 1977, bringing together scientists from all rice-producing countries. Activities triggered by this meetingincluding integrated pest management (IPM), reducing unnecessary insecticide use, and breeding
|Contact: Adam Barclay|
International Rice Research Institute