K.L. Heong, International Rice Research Institute, Los Baños, Philippines,
Q H Yuan and Ducheng Cai, Hainan University, Hai Kou, China
Arthropods, especially the natural enemies, are most vulnerable to insecticides. Indiscriminate use of pesticides will threaten many species to extinction. It was shown that pesticides, both insecticides and herbicides, can reduce spider biodiversity by 50%. Ecological engineering aims to build floral and faunal biodiversity so as to restore biodiversity and increase ecological functions such as predation and parasization. These functions provide the important ecosystem services such as pest invasion resistance and pest regulation that render natural biological control to rice crops. In ecological engineering rice fields of Vietnam, Jin Hua, China and Thailand species richness and egg parasitism were marked increased. In all these cases insecticide use was reduced by at least 50%.
Insecticide misuse in Hainan is extremely high. In Sanya farmers tend to apply 8 to 10 prophylactic sprays using cocktails each season. Retail licenses are easily obtainable from the county offices and pesticides are packed in numerous mixture combinations and trade names, even with a name “Big, Small, Kill All” (Ta Xiao Tong Xa) with active ingredients unknown. Last year pesticide-contaminated cow peas from Hainan were found in markets in many provinces which triggered concerns in food safety. The new policy bans 52 pesticides for sale in Hainan and imposes heavy fines of up to 20 million yuan (US$ 3.2 million) for violation. The “Pesticide Management Policy for Hainan Special Economic Zone” is expected to be in place by July 2011 “to further protect the quality and safety of agricultural products, building an ecological province and further promote international tourism island”, according to the Provincial Department of Agriculture. Meanwhile Beijing has also announced the ban of 10 highly toxic pesticides, including fenamiphos and fonofos. Earlier fipronil was banned for concerns over it harmful effects on shellfish and bees. Fipronil use in rice fields also increase their vulnerability to planthopper outbreaks.
China is the world largest pesticide producer and in recent years, production has escalated at least 5 folds while domestic consumption remains stagnant. Most of China’s pesticides are exported to developing countries with less stringent pesticide regulations, like countries in SE Asia and Africa. Here pesticides are sold as FMCGs (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) which is in direct conflict with principles of Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Weak pesticides policy is like a house with no roof where all sustainable practices are washed away and pesticides misuse is perpetuates.
Hainan’s New Pesticide policy is indeed a welcomed initiative of the provincial government and can pave the way to the conservation of arthropod biodiversity and ecosystem services, if implemented with committed political will. Being an island Hainan is well endowed with numerous species yet to be discovered. In 2 explorations we discovered four new species of spiders. Most of the prophylactic insecticide sprays farmers use today are unnecessary and can easily be avoided. The ecological engineering approach to restore biodiversity and ecosystem services will be experimented for implementation in Hainan rice fields. This is well in line with Hainan Province’s objective of building Hainan Island into an ecological province with safe food, tourism and healthy living.