Posts Tagged ‘rice’

Press Release

Virginia Tech University

Friday, December 19, 2014

Blacksburg, VA, USA

University awarded $18 million to implement integrated pest management program in developing countries
Virginia Tech has won a new $18 million, five-year grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for a research program that will work to raise the standard of living of people around the world through environmentally sound agricultural practices as part of Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative.
The Feed the Future Innovation Lab (formerly Collaborative Research Support Program) for Integrated Pest Management will conduct research and extension activities with farmers, counterpart universities, and host-country government research institutes to implement ecologically sustainable pest and disease control strategies. The predecessor programs to this new award have been led by Virginia Tech University for the past 21 years.
USAID recently announced that Virginia Tech would once again lead the program, a move that represents a vote of confidence in the work that has been ongoing since 1993. The new program will have a strong foundation in areas such as sustainable intensification, ecological service provision, ecological research, and empowerment of women farmers.
“We’ve been forming partnerships, conducting research, and getting to know farmers all over the world for the past two decades,” said Rangaswamy “Muni” Muniappan, who has led the Innovation Lab since 2006. “Our work has shown great results, and we look forward to continuing the fight against hunger.”
The competitively-awarded program will address new and emerging pest problems that plague farmers in the developing world, as well as model and manage the spread of invasive species. Program scientists will also be investigating ways to preserve biodiversity and offset the impacts of climate change on agricultural pests and diseases.
The new Innovation Lab, managed by Virginia Tech’s Office of International Research, Education, and Development, will commit its core resources to Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania in Africa and to Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, Nepal, and Vietnam in Asia.
The Asian arm of the program will include two main sub-programs: one focused on rice in Burma and Cambodia, and a second on horticultural crops in Cambodia, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Vietnam. The Nepal program will additionally address integrated pest management for grains and climate change impacts.
The projects in eastern Africa will focus on innovative crop protection research for increased production and preservation of high-priority Feed the Future staple crops like maize, wheat, and chickpea in Ethiopia; rice and maize in Tanzania; and high-value vegetables in Kenya and Tanzania. The program will also research and implement new strategies to control existing and emergent pest infestations in countries where farmers with limited resources are predicted to be heavily affected by climate variability.
“This program has been working on the ground with poor farmers, making a difference in their lives, and contributing to global food security,” said Guru Ghosh, vice president for Outreach and International Affairs at Virginia Tech. “We’re pleased to have the opportunity to learn from past challenges and build on our successes.”
As in all the previous phases of the program, U.S. researchers will strengthen and forge new partnerships with international colleagues and work directly with farmers. The core tenets will remain unchanged: The program will strive to reduce pesticide use, increase food production, improve health, and make a difference in the lives of poor people in developing countries all over the world.
“A small innovation in a farmer’s life can have a huge impact on their family and on succeeding generations,” said Muniappan.

About Feed the Future
Feed the Future (www.feedthe future.gov) is the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative. With a focus on smallholder farmers, particularly women, Feed the Future supports partner countries in developing their agriculture sectors to spur economic growth and trade that increase incomes and reduce hunger, poverty and undernutrition.

USAID is the lead U.S. Government agency that works to end extreme global poverty and enable resilient, democratic societies to realize their potential.
About Virginia Tech
Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 225 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $496 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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Bloomberg Businessweek


December 8- December 14, 2014, pages 112-113

Anniversary  Issue: 85 Years/Ideas

Green revolution p 1131

Green revolution p 2132



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JAKARTA] Rapid cropland expansion is the main cause of biodiversity loss in tropical countries, a study by UNEP’s (the UN Environment Programme) World Conservation Monitoring Centre and the Cambridge Conservation Initiative has found.

The study, published in PLOS ONE last month (9 January), highlights maize and soybean as the most expansive crops and as the main drivers of biodiversity loss in tropical regions. Other crops that pose a major threat to habitats and wildlife are beans, cassava, cowpea, groundnut, millet, oil palm, rice, sorghum, sugarcane and wheat, the study says.


  • Rapid expansion of crops such as maize and soybean is leading to biodiversity loss in tropical countries
  • Researchers say pace of expansion could derail progress towards meeting the Aichi Biodiversity Targets
  • A range of sustainability standards and policies are suggested as a way forward

It estimates that cropland in tropical countries expanded by 48,000 square kilometres per year from 1999 to 2008, with Brazil, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Nigeria and Sudan experiencing the greatest expansion.

Stuart H. M. Butchart, a UNEP researcher and one of the authors of the study, tells SciDev.Net: “Unsustainable agriculture is the most significant threat to biodiversity, but conservationists have not previously paid much attention to quantifying which particular crops have caused the greatest problems, nor which ones may do so in the future. This [study] starts to address this issue”.

One example of crop expansion cited in the study that has quickened the rate of species extinction is the Mega Rice Project in Kalimantan, Indonesia. Vast tracts of peat swamps were drained starting from the late 1990s in misguided attempts to turn them into rice plantations.

More than one million hectares, an area about a third the size of Belgium, have been converted for rice production, threatening the survival of Borneo’s last orangutans.

Similarly, peat and forest areas gave way to oil palm in Indonesia and Malaysia while soybean expansion have also replaced habitats of particularly high biodiversity value in the Brazilian Cerrado savanna. Expanding maize cultivation also threatens the dry forests of Madagascar.

Krystof Obidzinski, a scientist at the Centre for International Forestry Research, in Bogor, Indonesia, says that large-scale land acquisition is proceeding apace in countries like Indonesia — with economic benefits dominating the agenda while environmental impacts appear to be underestimated.

If the pace of expansion continues, the report warns, it could derail progress towards meeting the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, a set of 20, time-bound measurable targets aimed at halting global biodiversity loss by the middle of the century.

Butchart believes there should be a system in place so that consumers can make informed choices about the food they buy and how sustainably they have been produced. Such a system could reduce and minimise impacts of agriculture on biodiversity.

Customers can then discern which products are least damaging to the environment and producers have an incentive to minimise their negative impacts.

The study highlights the urgent need for more effective sustainability standards and policies addressing both production and consumption of commodities including robust land-use planning in agricultural frontiers, establishment of new protected areas or REDD+ projects in places agriculture has not yet reached, and reduction or elimination of incentives for land-demanding bioenergy feedstocks.

This article has been produced by SciDev.Net’s South-East Asia & Pacific desk.

Link to full article in PLOS ONE



PLOS ONE doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0051759 (2013)



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Book Review: Rice Pests of Bangladesh- Their Ecology and Management
Authors: Zahirul Islam and David Catling

The University Press Limited
Red Crescent House, 6th Floor
61 Montijheel C/A
GPO Box 2611, Dhaka 1000
Website: http://www.uplbooks.com.bdo
e-mail: upl@bangla.net

2012, 422 pages
ISBN: 978 984 506 048 6
2003, 512 pages
Price: Tk. 1600.00
Hard cover

Rice Pests of Bangladesh provides a comprehensive coverage of all of the abiotic constraints to rice production in the field and of pests in storage. The quality of this publication is enhanced by the fact that it brings together the accumulated data and experience of the two authors over the last 30 years. The 14 chapters and 422 pages cover all aspects of rice pest management including pests, yield loss, major control strategies and rice IPM.

Chapter 1 is entitled “Bangladesh and Rice.” Chapter 2 discusses the concepts of rice growth and pest status. Chapters 3-7 cover the early vegetative insect pests, general defoliators, stem borers, sap feeders and minor invertebrate pests. Chapter 8 discusses the vertebrate pests; rodents and birds. Chapter 9 provides a comprehensive coverage of the rice diseases; fungal, viral, bacterial and nematodes. The major weed species, their ecology severity and management are covered in Chapter 10. Chapter 11 explains the concepts of yield loss including mechanisms, plant compensation and yield loss assessment methods. Pests of rice in storage including insects, fungi and rodents are explained in Chaptger 12. Provides a detailed coverage of the major control strategies including cultural control, plant resistance, biological control and chemical control and pesticides. Chapter 14 covers the IPM of rice pests; concepts, principles, current management systems and new concepts for IPM in Bangladesh rice production.

This profusely illustrated book with an underlying IPM and ecological approach takes a fresh look at yield losses from insects and diseases and contains a wealth of information for rice plant protection specialists. It is specifically targeted to students, teachers, researchers, extension officers and agricultural development workers. The value of this book is enhanced as the information therein is not only relevant to Bangladesh but also applies to the Indian states of West Bengal, Assam and Bihar.

Prof. E. A. “Short” Heinrichs
Associate Director Emeritus
University of Nebraska
Lincoln, NE 68583-0748 USA

Research Professor, UNL Department of Entomology
Secretary General, International Association for the Plant Protection Sciences (IAPPS)
Email: eheinrichs2@unl.edu




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Inside 30 years Vietnam has gone from importing rice to becoming the world’s second largest rice exporter. Over-use of pesticides is damaging the environment, but farmers in the Mekong Delta say they’ve found a solution.

Vietnam rice field

There is a hint of gold in the verdant rice fields that fill the horizon in Kien Giang province – a sign for the farmers here in the south west of Vietnam’s Mekong Delta that harvesting time is not far away. But along the paths between the paddies, known as bunds, there are also neat row of speckled color – yellow, orange and purple nectar flowers – that are not part of the typical pastoral scene here.
The floral borders are not for decoration though, they are part of an ecological engineering project aimed at encouraging the natural predators of harmful pests and thereby reducing the use of pesticides. In particular the project targets the brown planthopper, a winged insect which devastates rice crops across Asia by sucking the sap until the plants shrivel and die, causing discolored patches on the field known as hopper burn.


Le Quang Cuong stands beside an ecologicaly engineered rice field

Nguyen Van Ray, a leathery-faced man in his 70s, and his wife Nguyen Thi Hai, grow just under half a hectare of rice in Trung Hoa village. Although they still use fungicide, the couple don’t spray pesticides any more.
“Before the project we used pesticides every week, 40 days after sowing we used the pesticide many times,” Ray says. “We applied it every week by hand. We would irrigate the fields then spray the pesticide at the base of the plant.”
It’s not surprising. The couple have bitter experience of brown planthoppers, they say.

Brown Planthopper.

The tiny brown planthopper can destroy rice crops in quick time. “In 2009 and 2010 we lost everything to hopper burn. We invested money in fertilizer, seed, labour and when there was hopper burn it destroyed the crop so we lost everything,” he says.

New projects sprouting up
Ray and Hai are among 45 families in Kien Giang province who have taken part in the ecological engineering project since 2011, run by the Southern Regional Plant Protection Centre and the International Rice Research Institute.
The concept was introduced in rice farming in China in 2008, and later on in Vietnam and Thailand. More recently, the Philippines also launched a project.

To kick-start the process rice farmers are initially given seedlings, which they plant on the bund and irrigate together with the rice plants. Although many of the nectar flowers die during the dry season, enough survive and go to seed for the next rice growing cycle.
When the flowers are in bloom, a planthopper predator – like the tiny parasitoid wasp for instance – then lives off the pollen and honey from the flowering plant. After living in the nectar flower on the bund, they fly to find the insect nest and then lay their eggs inside the eggs of the insect nest. Soon after that, the insect numbers generally die off.
So far, thanks to a publicity campaign involving billboards, leaflets and even a television series, more than 7,800 farmers now practice ecological engineering in Vietnam with demonstration sites being carried out in four provinces. According to the Southern Regional Plant Protection Centre, these farmers have “significantly reduced” pesticide use and no brown planthopper outbreaks have been reported from these sites since the project began.

When rice is big business
Following institutional and economic reforms in the 1980s, Vietnam has recently evolved from being a chronic rice importer to become the world’s second biggest rice exporter, after India. The Mekong Delta region produces around half of the country’s rice.
Like other countries in Asia, pesticide use has skyrocketed in recent decades too, propelled by aggressive marketing. Le Quang Cuong from the Southern Regional Plant Protection Centre, says that often when they are introducing farmers to the ecological engineering project in one village, in a neighboring village pesticide companies would be meeting residents to sell their products.
But, slowly the project is taking effect nonetheless. One reason farmers are moving away from pesticides and towards flowering plants is due to the cost benefits. Using pesticides costs about 800,000 dong (27.30 euros, $18.80) per hectare per season. Buying the seeds for the right flowers comes in at just a fraction of that price.
In December last year, the local plant protection center in An Giang province, bordering Cambodia, decided to expand the project to include vegetable farmers. Official Dang Thanh Phong says that expanding the project to include vegetable farms was an obvious choice.
Farmers Nguyen Van Ray and Nguyen Thi Hai say the new project has saved their rice

“The pesticide usage level in vegetable growing is much higher than in rice production,” he told DW. “They spray once every three or four days.”
Farmer Huynh Ngoc Dien, one of the vegetable farmers taking part in the pilot stage of the ecological engineering project, says he’s reduced the amount of pesticide he sprays by 20 percent.
“When I grow nectar flowers I am not worried, but some people in our village still spray pesticides, people inside and outside the project,” he says. “It’s still the first time for them so they don’t know the benefits they can get if they just opt for flowers.”

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Kieran Dodds/Panos
Speed read
Thailand study deploys bats against the insect pests that feed on rice shoots

Test result extrapolation shows rice savings worth over a million dollars a year

Another expert says a study based on one field survey has ‘no substantial base’


[KUALA LUMPUR] Bats that prey on a major rice pest in Thailand could save paddy harvests worth millions of dollars and help contribute to better food security, scientists say in a paper published in Biological Conservation recently (March).

Using data from a previous study and their own field survey, the scientists came up with a value of the predation of the wrinkle-lipped bat (Tadarida plicata) on the white-backed planthopper (Sogatella furcifera), a migratory insect pest in Asia which feeds on rice shoots.

The scientists calculated that each wrinkle-lipped bat consumes about 1,130 white-backed planthoppers daily. With a population of almost eight million, this bat species may prevent paddy losses of nearly 2,900 tonnes per year worth US$1.2 million in export value, enough to feed 26,000 people for a year.

Thomas Cherico Wanger, lead author of the paper and a tropical ecologist at University of Göttingen in Germany, suggests that Thai rice farmers can recruit bats in their fields by providing roosting boxes.

“The model shows that 300 bats in each roosting box can protect almost 700 kilograms of rice per year,” Wanger tells SciDev.Net.

Bats have yet to be considered as a significant pest control agent in agriculture, according to Wantana Srirattanasak, senior entomologist of Thailand’s Department of Rice. “Our farmers have never thought of using bats as biological control agents,” she says.

A year-long survey in 2005 reported that planthoppers made up almost 30 per cent of the diet of wrinkled-lipped bats. Working from this survey, Wanger and his team built a model to “quantify the amount of rice that bats protect when they feed on planthoppers.”

Combining data from the literature with their field observations, the scientists used the model to estimate the number of white-backed planthoppers consumed by all the wrinkled-lipped bats in Thailand. They then estimated the amount of rice harvest saved due to the predation of these planthoppers.

But models simplify nature based on assumptions that might be wrong, Wanger warns, adding that it is crucial to “compile good data” and “to indicate the level of error that comes with an estimate.

“The model has merits as a thought experiment,” says Geoff Gurr, applied ecology professor at Charles Sturt University in Australia.

But Gurr, who has been working on the biological control of planthoppers with arthropod predators, notes that only one field survey was used to estimate the bats’ predation of the planthoppers. “It is not a substantial base on which to extrapolate too widely,” he says.

Another caveat is that the amount of rice saved by the bats— 2,900 tonnes— is only a tiny portion of the 25-30 million tonnes of rice produced yearly in Thailand. Bats might not be irrelevant, says Gurr, “but they are a very small portion of the mortality that would be required to control the planthoppers.”

Wanger says his team understands the limits of their model. But he argues it is crucial to test predictions of the model against field experiments and more data analyses. He says their modelling code, published with their paper, was made “as transparent as possible” to help others test their predictions.

Link to paper in Biological Conservation

This article has been produced by SciDev.Net’s South-East Asia & Pacific desk.


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