The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has applauded the Thai Sustainable Planthopper initiative to restrict the use of two types of insecticides that are a major cause of outbreaks of brown planthoppers, which are devastating rice crops across Thailand.
Brown planthopper outbreaks are affecting nearly 11% of the Thai rice crop this year and are expected to cause losses of about 840 million baht (or US$28 million) – devastating the lives of farmers dependent on rice for an income and denting the country’s rice exports.
“Thailand’s Rice Department has developed a well-thought-out and integrated pest management initiative to reduce brown planthopper damage by promoting and facilitating best management practices, which includes stopping the use of insecticides such as abamectin and cypermethrin that significantly contribute to brown planthopper outbreaks,” said Dr. Robert Zeigler, director general at IRRI.
“It is of international significance that Thailand will undertake this initiative because, as the world’s largest exporter of rice, it is recognized as a global leader in the rice industry,” he added. “Brown planthoppers are a problem across many other rice-growing nations and, if Thailand is successful in its battle against the pest, others can confidently follow suit and implement similar measures.”
The $12.8 million initiative, which is supported by Thailand’s Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives Theera Wongsamut, was announced at Thailand’s National Rice Conference. It aims to:
- Multiply the seed of brown planthopper-resistant rice varieties to 15,000 tons and distribute this seed to Thai rice farmers.
- Establish in 20 provinces giant light traps that attract and catch brown planthoppers.
- Manage 300 brown planthopper community centers and communication campaigns across the country.
- Establish mobile units that will visit villages to promote best management practices to reduce the occurrence of brown planthopper outbreaks.
- Persuade farmers that they should stop using abamectin and cypermethrin because they cause brown planthopper outbreaks.
IRRI advocates that rice farmers use environmentally friendly approaches to pest management, such as integrated pest management, that control pests through the use of pest-resistant varieties, a smarter understanding and management of pest ecology, and an elimination of ineffective and problematic insecticides.
Thailand and IRRI have been partners since 1960 with IRRI working closely with the Thai Rice Department to share best management practices to combat insect pests in rice.
“One of the main causes of brown planthopper outbreaks is the use of insecticides such as abamectin and cypermethrin, because they kill its natural predators and, when misused, can lead to the insects developing resistance,” says Dr. K.L. Heong, insect ecologist at IRRI.
The Thai Agro Business Association, Thailand’s pesticide industry association, also supports restricted use of abamectin and cypermethrin in rice due to their ineffectiveness in controlling brown planthoppers, according to their president, Dr. Weerawooth Katanyukul.
IRRI is currently developing clear recommendations about insecticide use in rice crops to help farmers make better decisions. Topics under consideration are licensing of insecticide salespeople, identifying insecticides that should never be used in rice, identifying which insecticides could be used in rice and under what circumstances, and ways to support extension and communication of better insecticide use to farmers.