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ANNOUNCEMENT

 

Rice Pests of Bangladesh: Their Ecology and Management

by Zahirul Islam and David Catling

The University Press Limited, Dhaka, 2012; 422pages

 

This book takes a refreshing ecological approach to the management of rice pests in Bangladesh. Carefully laid out, easy to read and profusely illustrated, it is a single source for all rice pests, that is: insects, vertebrates, diseases, weeds, and draws on research efforts of the last 34 decades. It includes a new look at yield losses caused by insects and diseases, and analyzes ways and means of implementing IPM programmes.

 

The book is amustfor students, teachers, researchers, extension officers and agricultural development workers in Bangladesh and the eastern Indian states.

 

The book is available at:

The University Press Limited

Red Crescent House (5th Floor)

61Motijheel C/A, Dhaka1000, Bangladesh

Tel.: 9565441/9565444  Fax: 88029565543

E-mail: upl@bangla.net; upl@bttb.net.bd

Price: Tk. 1600.00

 

 

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Rats in Philippine Rice

Commentary

Rats, rice and reform

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According to Leonardo Marquez of PhilRice’s Crop Protection Division, one of the biggest factors preventing the rice sector from reaching its full potential is rat infestation. Rice rats have been known to wipe out an entire crop, although the average crop damage attributed to rats is about 8 percent. Getting rid of the rat problem will thus immediately bring up rice output.

Marquez (0908-5316275) said that the only enemy in the rice fields that is intelligent is the rice rat.  Just when people thought they had devised strategies to kill rats, the rats would formulate counter-strategies. Take rat poison, for example. Rats that take the poison but somehow survive will never eat that poison again. Rats learn from experience, something other pests like the green leaf hopper cannot do.

Rats even practice birth control better than humans. When there is abundant food, they multiply rapidly. But when food is scarce, their birth rate goes down. This is why the rat population increases much more during the rainy season when there is much food, as compared to the dry season when there is less food. If only humans would do the same.

Rats also look for forest cover composed of grasses and weeds where they can hide. They can go far from their home base, and therefore cause more damage where grasses and weeds proliferate in low sanitation areas.

The 8 percent yield loss from rat infestation has been constant for decades. This is because traditional solutions have not changed. Reactive action is taken when rats are already causing severe damage. “Kill rat” campaigns are then launched to eliminate the rats. Some municipalities give rewards to the farmers who kill the most rats, while others give P1 for each rat tail submitted. Unless this reactive mode is changed and systematic preventive action taken, rats will continue to bedevil our rice fields. Four solutions are recommended.

The first is synchronous planting. If farmers in a given area plant and harvest at the same time, the rats have nothing to eat when the harvests are completed. Their numbers will decrease since food will be scarce. But when the harvests occur at different times, the rats will just go from one field to another because of the availability of food. The rats will then increase.

The second is sanitation. With the weeds and grasses minimized and overall sanitation improved, the rats will have fewer and less conducive hiding places.

The third solution is related to the second. Rats can still burrow into holes to hide. The traditional response is to cover these holes with dirt. However, the rats are smart enough to go around this dirt and create new entrances and exits. But if farmers mix water with mud and put this combination into the holes, this solidifies into hard mass, leaving no opportunity to carve new entrances and exits.

The fourth solution is the most important: farmers must organize into a united community to fight these rats. Without unity, the rats will merely go from one rice field to another. In places where there is no community action, the rats appear more intelligent than the people.

There is much effort to increase the yield of rice with measures such as irrigation, fertilizers, pesticides, and seeds. But when the rats come, 8 percent of the crop is lost.

The solution must be holistic. If we put effort into increasing palay yield, we must likewise put effort into preventing the rats from decreasing this yield. While the strategies to increase yield costs money, the strategies to fight rats cost practically nothing. Education and community mobilization are all that is needed. We recommend that training, tri-media campaigns, and community meetings and mobilization be harnessed before, not after, rat infestation.

Just as outstanding farmers are recognized for increasing yield, outstanding farmer communities that show significant decreases in palay losses due to rat infestation should also be rewarded. If contests and campaigns are publicized properly, Marquez believes the 8 percent loss can decrease to as low as 5 percent. Rats will then begin to perish and our rice flourish.

There is a paradigm shift in this kind of reform: proactive rather than reactive, preventive rather than curative, sustainable rather than short-lived, and community rather than individually propelled. It is this kind of reform that will also succeed in the fight against the “rats” in the government and the private sector. This way, these rats will similarly perish and our country’s inclusive growth will flourish.

(The author is Chair of Agriwatch, former Secretary for Presidential Flagship Programs and Projects, and former Undersecretary for Agriculture, Trade and Industry. For inquiries and suggestions, email agriwatch_phil@yahoo.com or telefax (02) 8522112).

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