Between 2011 and 2015, CABI set up 22 Trichogramma rearing facilities as part of a project to promote the use of biologically-based Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for rice and maize crops. In addition to creating the Trichogramma rearing facilities, IPM strategies for rice and maize were developed in Southwestern China, Laos and Myanmar.
This included measures such as balanced fertilisation, pest monitoring, alternative wetting and drying in rice, the growing of flowering plants on the bunds, as well as the application of the Trichogramma wasps. Farmers also received substantial training on the application of biological control agents and other IPM measures.
A CABI study aiming to assess impact of these two projects now suggests that more environment-friendly biological controls could be a viable alternative to pesticides to help farmers in the three target countries fight rice and maize pests which threaten their livelihoods as well as local, regional and national food security.
This new research led by Dr Dirk Babendreier, Dr Min Wan and Dr Dannie Romney is outlined in a paper in the journal Insects and reveals that farmers who used biological controls to manage key pests – such as the rice stem borer – achieved similar, if not better (4-10 percent), yields as those used more harmful pesticides.
It also showed that 11 rearing facilities were still producing substantial quantities of biocontrol agents 18 months after project support had ended.
The research, carried out in collaboration CABI Switzerland, CABI Malaysia and the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA)-CABI Joint Laboratory for Biosafety, found that amongst farmers surveyed during a study assessing impact of two projects on rice and maize IPM the use of pesticides halved when they used Trichogramma wasp egg-cards as a biological control agent.
The scientists say further promotion of IPM is needed to upscale the already positive effects of measures which encourage a reduction in synthetic pesticide use and the effects on the sustainable agricultural production of rice and maze in the target area more generally.
Dr Babendreier said, “Pesticide use in Asia has increased substantially in the last two decades, particularly in China, where half of all pesticides applied globally are now used. Thus, biologically-based IPM in rice and maize is much needed, despite being a relatively new concept for some of the target countries in the Greater Mekong Subregion, i.e. Laos and Myanmar.
“By anchoring biological control and several other IPM practices at governmental, extension, and, at a still relatively small-scale, farmer level, the research has helped pave the way for more sustainable maize and rice production, as well as establishing a better environment and healthier lives for the farm households in the region.”
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