Sunday, February 21, 2010

Restore ecology to prevent rice pest outbreaks in Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand – Devastating outbreaks of brown planthoppers (BPH) in Thailand’s rice crop can be prevented if an eco-friendly approach to pest management is adopted, according to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).
Khun Manit Luecha (right) talks to a Thai farmer (left) about BPH 
The brown planthopper (BPH) is one of the most destructive pests of rice and, this season, they are in plague proportions in Thailand – the world’s biggest exporter of rice.
Khun Manit Luecha, director of Chainat Rice Seed Center, says, “This is the worst outbreak of BPH I have seen in my career since 1977. Most of the paddy fields – probably more than 1 million hectares – will suffer rice yield losses of more than 30%.”
Damage has spread from the north, especially in Khampaeng Phet and Phichit, to Suphan Buri, Chainat and Ang Thong in the Central Plains – the rice bowl of Thailand. Damages are serious already and new outbreaks are being reported every day. BPH also transmits two viral diseases that can severely stunt and discolor the plant and prevent grain formation.
“BPH becomes a pest when natural control mechanisms fail,” says Dr. K.L. Heong, an insect ecologist at IRRI.
Close up of a brown planthopper
“To prevent outbreaks we must restore the natural environment and biodiversity to keep BPH numbers below economically damaging levels," he added. "To achieve this, farmers will have to use pesticides more strategically and adopt ecological engineering principles."

To manage BPH, IRRI recommends that farmers:

  • Adopt integrated pest management (IPM) practices.
  • Grow beneficial plants in the “bunds” between rice paddies to attract BPH predators such as spiders, crickets, and parasitoids.
  • Synchronize rice plantings so that there are times when no rice is growing to prevent immigrant BPH from establishing new populations.
  • Plant a BPH-resistant rice variety, such as RD29, RD31, RD41, Pisanulok2, Supanburi2, Supanburi3, and Supanburi90.
  • Do not apply fertilizer in excess as overfertilized crops tend to promote BPH growth.
  • Limit pesticide use to control leaf-eating insects as these products kill the BPH’s natural predators as well.
  • If a pesticide must be used to control BPH, use BPH-specific chemicals, such as buprofezin, as it has fewer effects on BPH’s natural enemies.
IRRI has been monitoring the BPH and virus situation across Asia with increasing concern over the past several years.
Dr. K.L. Heong is helping to find ways to manage BPH problems.
“Last year, high rice prices motivated Thai farmers to grow rice continuously, fertilize their rice more in an effort to boost yields, and attempt to protect their investment by spraying more pesticides to keep leaf-eating insects at bay,” said Dr. Heong. “This combination of practices helped cause the current BPH outbreak in Thailand."
Dr. Heong coordinates the Rice Planthopper Project, a collaborative research network with national scientists in Asia co-funded by IRRI and the Asian Development Bank that aims to share knowledge and develop sustainable ways to manage BPH problems.
If farmers or their advisors want to find ways to manage existing BPH problems and to prevent future outbreaks they can go to the Ricehoppers Blog.
IRRI helps farmers manage pests in a sustainable way by developing pest-resistant rice varieties, IPM strategies, and ecological engineering approaches.

China hikes rice price to boost output

BEIJING — China has boosted the price it pays for rice by up to 10 percent this year to encourage farmers to plant more and increase production, state media said Sunday.
China's economic planning agency set the minimum purchase price for short grain rice at 105 yuan (about 15 dollars) for every 50 kilograms, a 10.5 percent rise over last year, the People's Daily said.
The lowest price to be paid by state granaries for long grain rice was increased by 5.4 percent, the paper said, citing the National Development and Reform Agency.
China's rice farmers are required to sell a certain proportion of their harvest to state granaries at set prices, while the rest is sold on open markets where prices for the main staple tend to be higher.
"The price adjustments are aimed at prompting farmers to plant more rice and to increase grain production," the paper said, adding that the price rises would also raise rural incomes.
China's consumer price index, the main gauge of inflation, rose 1.5 percent in January compared with the same month a year earlier, driven mainly by food prices which were 3.7 percent higher.
In January 2009, China's planning agency raised the purchase price for rice by between 15 and 17 percent as the government sought to increase grain production and raise rural incomes

Philippines triples its rice yield in last 50 years

Washington, Feb 20 (ANI): Reports indicate that in the last fifty years, the Philippines has more than tripled its rice yield, while the world average rice yield has increased only about 2.3 times.

Despite being criticized as a poor rice producer because of its status as the world's biggest rice importer, the Philippines has actually done remarkably well in raising its rice yields from 1.16 tons per hectare in 1960 to 3.59 tons per hectare in 2009.

In 2009, Philippine rice yields were actually lower than the previous two years due to the damage done by the tropical storms "Ondoy" and "Pepeng".

In 2007, average rice yields topped 3.8 tons per hectare and in 2008 they were 3.77 tons per hectare.

Rice yields in the Philippines are also higher than those in Thailand, the world's biggest exporter of rice, where yields over the last few years have been around 3 tons per hectare.

"The Philippines has enthusiastically taken up rice science technologies that have helped farmers dramatically increase their yields," said Dr. William Padolina, deputy director general for operations at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

"Filipino farmers have adopted more than 75 IRRI-bred high-yielding rice varieties since 1960, have greatly improved their fertilizer and pest management strategies, and are implementing water-saving technologies," he added.

According to estimates from the United States Department of Agriculture, the average world rice yield in 1960 was 1.84 tons per hectare and in 2009 it was forecast at 4.24 tons per hectare.

Dr. Padolina acknowledges that the Philippines could improve its rice yields even more and said that he was confident that "the Philippines will continue to support rice research as a way of nsuring food security for Filipinos, to help lift local rice farmers and consumers out of poverty, and in turn improve the entire economy of the country

Philippines may buy more rice

The additional imports from Manila would bring its total purchases to just over a record 3.2 million tonnes for the year. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

MANILA - THE Philippines, the world's biggest rice buyer, may import around 800,000 tonnes more this year amid a prolonged dry spell, an official with the state grain agency said on Sunday.
The additional imports from Manila would bring its total purchases to just over a record 3.2 million tonnes for the year.
But bulging stocks from Thailand and Vietnam, the top two rice exporters, may cushion any impact on Asian rice prices which have eased considerably since Manila's last rice tender in December.
'What is being harvested now by farmers is what was planted from around September last year when the ricefields were hit by typhoons,' Rex Estoperez, spokesman for the National Food Authority (NFA), told Reuters.
'With the dry spell expected to last until July, there might not be enough water available for the planting season in May and June which will be harvested starting around September.' 'This means we may need to buy about 800,000 tonnes more to offset any production shortfall.'
Water levels at dams across the country have been dropping to near record lows due to the dry spell, caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon, putting at risk irrigation for farms as well as hydropower plants. Wide swathes of farmlands in northern Philippines, including rice-growing areas, have dried up completely

Stand-off between rice millers, govt

CHANDIGARH: Confusion prevails over the milling of PAU 201 variety of rice due to sharp differences between rice millers and the state and Central government regarding shelling of 40 lakh tonne of the variety stacked with millers.

While rice millers insist that due to the Centre's disapproval of the controversial variety, it would be procured by the Food Corporation of India, the government has slammed them for being "unnecessary panicky." A meeting convened by prime minister's principal secretary TK Nair and attended by state government officials, including chief secretary SC Aggarwal, stated that rice prepared from PAU 201 for the Central pool could be accepted. This because results of around 85% samples of the variety drawn for testing were within prescribed limits as far as percentage of the damage and discoloration was concerned.

Talking to TOI, Aggarwal said, "The millers are unnecessarily apprehending higher damage to the paddy variety than what is indicated in the samples. This is not logical. The Centre has clarified that rice should first be milled and one shouldn't jump to conclusions beforehand."

Meanwhile, millers don't seem too willing to buy the government's argument.

Tarsem Saini, president of the Rice Millers Association of Punjab, said, "We can mill 40 lakh tonne paddy stacked with us. But will Food Corporation of India accept it?" Saini said around 2 lakh tonne paddy of 201 variety, already milled across the state, had not been accepted by the Food Corporation of India. "We have been demanding relaxations due to damage to this variety. As of now, 4% is allowed but we want this to be increased by 6 to 8%," said Saini. Sources said the stand-off was significant as the variety had been sown for the first time and a high yield had been reported.

The procurement of PAU 201 began on October 1 and more than 40 lakh tonne has to be milled. Meanwhile, confusion has risen as results of testing by different agencies show a marked difference.

While the health ministry after sampling the variety had termed it unfit for human consumption, the latest samples with the Central government are said to be within the prescribed limits.