A report on Hainan farmers’ knowledge, attitude and practice (KAP) on pest management and ecological engineering

M. Escalada, Visayas State University, Leyte, Philippines,
Liang Wang, Qianhua Yuan, Ducheng Cai, Hainan University, Hai Kou and
KL Heong, International Rice Research Institute, Los Baños, Philippines

Full report available for download here.

A baseline farmer survey was conducted among 411 randomly selected rice farmers in Haikou and Lingshui cities in Hainan province, China. Respondent farmers were about 45 years old with about 8 years of schooling. More male farmers (57.2%) than female farmers (42.8%) were interviewed. The average of three (3) family members worked in each farm.

Hybrid indica varieties were grown widely in the study areas and more than half of the respondents (55.4%) considered the brown planthopper (BPH) as their most important pest followed by the leaffolder and stem borers. The rice leaffolder was the spray target at seedling and tillering stages while the brown planthopper was the key pest at booting and heading stages. The average yield loss caused by pests reported was 1652kg/ha and a mean number of sprays per farmer/season was 3.62; the lowest number of sprays was 1 and the highest, 13.  Farmers’ yields averaged 5.4 tons/ha and there was negative correlation between yields and number of insecticide sprays used.

Most farmers reported not planting particular plants on areas around their rice paddy (41.9%). Less than one-third (31.1%) planted vegetables while 30.2 % planted fruits or fruit trees. On the rice bunds, most farmers interviewed (93.2%) did not grow any plants there although a few raised vegetables (4.9%), fruits (1.7%), legumes (0.5%), and sweet potatoes (0.5%). Most respondents did not seem to have knowledge of beneficial insects and animals and they could not recognize differentiate them.

With regard to farmers’ attitudes toward planthopper management, most believed that insecticide applications are needed as insecticide spraying would always increase yields.

A large proportion of respondents knew that the planthoppers laid eggs inside the leaf sheath of a rice plant and insecticides could not reach them.  Most also believed that beneficial insects can suppress planthopper populations.

Regarding the causes of pest outbreaks, most of the respondents knew that high seed rates could be a factor but they were uncertain about other outbreak factors such as high fertilizer rates and insecticides.  Respondents’ attitudes toward ecological engineering techniques seemed positive as most agreed that bunds with some wild beneficial flowers would attract beneficial insects such as bees and spiders.  They also believed that keeping beneficial flowers on bunds could reduce the need for insecticide sprays, could help the bees, beautify rice fields and improve health to farmers. However about two-thirds of the respondents indicated that they were not willing to plant wild flowers or beneficial plants on their rice bunds as it would require more work.


Project team conducts interviewer training and questionnaire pretesting in Hainan University

M.M. Escalada, Visayas State University, Leyte, Philippines,
H. Zhang, Q. Yuan, D. Cai, Hainan University, Hai Kou, China and
K.L. Heong, International Rice Research Institute, Los Baños, Philippines

Dr. Qianhua Yuan shows student enumerators the survey sites in Hainan province.

L-R: Hui Zhang (Hainan University) and Dr. M. Escalada going through the interviewing guide.

To design a scaling up plan on biodiversity conservation for Hainan Island, China, audience analysis, media monitoring and baseline survey data are needed. Such data will serve as valuable inputs in developing the campaign objectives, choosing the communication media mix and on-the-ground support, framing the message and implementing the campaign.

As a prerequisite to an audience analysis in Hainan province, 20 student enumerators were trained on interviewing procedures and questionnaire pretesting. During the training, Dr. K.L. Heong briefed the students on the Hainan project and the purpose of the audience analysis. Dr. QH Yuan presented the survey sites, Ms. Hui Zhang discussed sampling procedures and logistics, Dr. M. Escalada explained interviewing procedures and what should be noted during the questionnaire pretest. After the training, the students went to Longji village in Haikou to pretest the audience analysis questionnaire with rice farmers. The enumerators were second year market research students of Hainan University.


Training participants with resource persons

Pretesting results

 When the college students returned from the field, each of them shared their interviewing experiences and specified the questions that were not clearly understood by farmers. They also estimated the duration of each interview.

Table 1. Questionnaire pretesting results, Longji, Haikou.

[table id=1 /]

Student enumerators arrive in Longji village for pretesting.

Hainan University student pretesting the questionnaire.

Pretesting in Longji village.

What is questionnaire pretesting

To ensure that the questionnaire is effective, it is necessary to pretest it before actually using it. The pretest is a try-out of the questionnaire to see how it works and whether changes are necessary before the start of the actual survey. About 15 to 20 respondents, whose characteristics are reasonably similar to the survey population, will be adequate for a pretest.  The questionnaire is then revised and finalized on the basis of pretest results.   Linguistic and cultural differences also complicate the task of questionnaire development, making pretesting a necessary step. The pretest enables one to: 1) improve the wording of the questionnaire; 2) correct and improve translation of technical terms; 3) check the accuracy and adequacy of the questionnaire’s instructions such as “skip” and “go to”; 4) eliminate unnecessary questions and add necessary ones; and 5) estimate the time needed to conduct the interview.


Discovering and naming new arthropod species – meticulous tasks involved

A.T. Barrion, J Catindig, S Villareal, International Rice Research Institute, Los Baños, Philippines, Ducheng, Cai and  QianhuaYuan, Hainan University, China

Some new spider species from Hainan Island, China

Caption :  A. Hyposinga n. sp. [Araneidae]; B. Larinia n.sp.[Araneidae]; C. Cheiracanthium n. sp. [ Clubionidae]; D. Chrysso n. sp. [Theridiidae]; E. Neobrettus heongi n. sp. [ Salticidae]; F. Tetragnatha n. sp. [Tetragnathidae]; G. Clubiona n. sp. [Clubionidae]; H. Mallinella n. sp. [Zodariidae]; I. Arctosa n. sp. [Lycosidae]; J. Evarcha n. sp. [Salticidae]

Discovering and naming a new species

Worldwide new species of animals particularly arthropods are discovered and more than 15,000 of them new to science are catalogued annually. The arthropod biodiversity exploration (ABE) expeditions of sampling and collecting the fauna in rice and habitats surrounding rice cultivations have yielded huge numbers of insects, spiders and relatives.  The arthropod biodiversity on Hainan Island is impressive. From our first expedition in August 2010, we collected 6531 hymenopterans and 10426 spiders and another 56628 arthropods from at least 16 orders—Acarina, Blattodea, Chilopoda, Coleoptera, Collembola, Dermaptera, Diplopoda, Diptera, Hemiptera, Lepidoptera, Mantodea, Phasmatodea, Psocoptera, Odonata, Orthoptera and Thysanoptera.  The hymenopteran insects were represented by 36 families, 260 genera and 816 species and 123 species (or 15.1%) we believe to be new records.  The spiders collected were represented by 19 families, 79 genera and 167 species of which 23 (or 15.6%) were definitely new records.  So far only one species has been named, described and published in literature, that of Tetragnatha heongi  in 2011 and 146 new arthropod species remain un-described. It had taken us more than a year to sort, identify and count the arthropod collections because of the acute shortage of experts in arthropod taxonomy.  Although we have identified many new species, but the process of describing, naming and publishing the new taxa require highly specialized taxonomists working with the arthropod group who are familiar with the literature and works of other taxonomists around the world.

Roadmap in discovering, naming, describing and publishing a new species.

New species maybe abundant in Hainan Island but the discovery of new species is a product of a meticulous investigative process that starts from knowing the: CLASS-FAMILY-GENUS-SPECIES. Once the genus had been identified, all the species under the genus must be investigated. The scientists need to compare the species in question to all known described taxa based on taxonomic characters like that of the genitalia, morphology and size and color. This is done by following the published descriptions about the genus/genera and species under it. Whenever possible, type specimens must be borrowed from museums it was deposited for better comparison. Only when it is certain that the “new” species has completely different characteristics can the scientist propose the new name with justifications. Naming species follows many but specific protocols fixed by the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) for animals and the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN) for plants. The manuscript for publication containing the new species description is submitted to the chosen journal following its guidelines for publication. The journal editor upon receipt submits the manuscript to the journal pool of section reviewers (specialist of the group) for review. Publication of new species is only formally achieved upon satisfying and fulfilling the recommendation(s)/suggestion(s) of the panel of experts .  To recognize that a species is new to science, one must be an expert in a particular taxonomic group. The scientists describing the new species had to be familiar with the particular taxonomic group and know the characteristics of every known species in the world.  The naming of plants and animals was formalized in the 18th century by a Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus.

Biodiversity conservation

Species new to science will continue to be found as long as scientists look for them and have the expertise and patience to describe them. But such species are not new to the world as they have been here for millions of years and it is important that mankind ensure that both “old” and “new” species remain a part of the environment. They may be contributing to an important ecosystem service important for sustainability.  This is more so in the case of species that have specialized functions.  In the case of rice there are only a few species that can reach and attack planthopper eggs embedded in the leaf sheath tissues, the mymarid parasitoids and the mirid egg predator. Thus when these species are destroyed or they become extinct, egg mortality will be reduced allowing these species to grow into outbreak proportions. Earlier we found that spider and parasitoid species diversity is highly dependent  on farm practices, particularly pesticide use and bund management with flowers.

From a small sample of arthropods collected we found 15% of the species were new to science.  Being an island It is very likely that more species are yet to be discovered.  This shows the richness of the biodiversity on Hainan Island and possibly new species of mammals, birds, amphibians and invertebrates will also be discovered. There is great potential in building a biodiversity center in Hainan University that will focus on discovering, describing and naming of the huge biodiversity existing on the island.

Arthropod Biodiversity Seminar and Exploration in Hainan Island

J. Catindig, S. Villareal, A.T. Barrion, International Rice Research Institute, Los Baños Philippines, Ducheng Cai and Qianhua Yuan, Hainan University, China

Participants in the International Seminar on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.

Hainan University, in collaboration with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), hosted a one-day international seminar on “Conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services in rice production” on April 19, 2012. Speakers from IRRI, Philippines, China, and Vietnam discussed topics on ecology, sociology and communication. After the formal opening by Prof. Zheng Fucong and Prof. Yuan Qianhua, Dr. KL Heong presented ecosystem services concepts, their importance in restoring resilience to pests and methods to assess them. Dr A.T. Barrion described the huge spider biodiversity in Hainan and his discovery of 27 new species. Dr M.M. Escalada discussed the communication concepts and principles used to motivate farmers to conserve the biodiversity and ecosystem services, followed by case studies from Jinhua (Dr Lu Zhongxian), Sanmen (Dr Zengrong Zhu) and Vietnam (Dr Ho Van Chien).

A new laboratory on biodiversity has been assigned to the project.  New arthropod collection cabinet, exhibition boxes and posters will be installed and used for biodiversity education.

Arthropod biodiversity team led by Dr A.T. Barrion in Longji village.

In Longji village the exploration team led by Dr A.T. Barrion identified the sites for the ecological engineering experiment.  This village has a history of planting rice for the emperor dating back several hundred years ago. The residents mostly with the surname “Zheng” had originated from Fujian province. Sampling of arthropods will be carried out in a naturally engineered set of rice fields surroundedby a huge richness of flora and another set of rice fields with only grass habitats on the bunds.

A: A naturally engineering set of rice farms B: Rice fields with only grasses on the bunds.

Arthropods were collected using sweep net, pitfall trap, and blow-vac suction machine. Many interesting finds were spiders, specifically two species of new jumping spiders of the Family Salticidae and possibly a new frog species, similar to that recently discovered in Leyte province in the Philippines.

Composite of species

Hainan University hosts international seminar on biodiversity and ecosystem services in rice production

Hainan University, in collaboration with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), will host a one day international seminar on biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services in rice production on 19 April 2012 in the Haikou campus of Hainan University.  The seminar will feature international speakers from IRRI, China, Philippines and Vietnam covering topics ranging from ecology, sociology and communication.

Biodiversity of the parasitic, predatory and pollinating hymenoptera species from rice fields on Hainan Island, China – 123 new species recorded

Alberto Barrion, taxonomy consultant, International Rice Research Institute, Los Baños, Philippines, Ducheng Cai, Hainan University, Haikou, China, J. Catindig, S. Villareal, International Rice Research Institute, Los Baños, Philippines and Qianhua Yuan, Hainan University, China

Biodiversity of hymenoptera species from Hainan Island

Hymenoptera is the order of insects that comprises of wasps, bees, ants and parasitoids. From the human perspectives this group of insects is probably most beneficial, as they provide important ecosystem services, biological control and pollination. There are over 130,000 recognized species, with many more remaining to be described. The name refers to the wings of the insects derived from the Ancient Greek word “hymen”, meaning membrane and “pteron”, meaning wing.

We used 6 insect sampling methods and collected 6, 531 individuals from 4 sampling sites, brought them back to laboratory, identified and counted them.  There were 816 species from 260 genera in 36 families. The most dominant families were Scelionidae (1,465 individuals), Formicidae (1,333), Trichogrammatidae (947), Eulophidae(614), Braconidae (435), Encyrtidae(365), Mymaridae(332), Elasmidae (155) and Aphelinidae (136). The highest number of species was from Scelionidae (162 species), followed by Encyrtidae (110), Eulophidae (102), Braconidae (86), Mymaridae (47), Trichogrammatidae (34), Ceraphronidae and Chalcididae (25 each) and Pteromalidae (21). Of the total number of species identified, we found 123 species or 15% were new and previously unknown to science. The proportion of uncharted arthropods in Hainan Island is impressive.  Earlier we also found new undescribed species of spiders. The large number of new species found in the expedition indicates that the arthropod biodiversity is high and many species are yet to be described.


Families of hymenoptera – largest number from family scelionidae

The two functional groups of Hymenoptera in rice ecosystems were parasitoids represented by 25 families and constituting 77.4% (5,055 individuals) and predators in 5 families making up 22.2% (1,448 individuals).  Only a small proportion was pollinators from 0.4% (28 individuals) from 5 families. This implies that the hymenoptera species contribute mainly to biological control services of rice ecosystems.  Since rice is a self pollinated crop, the pollination service may not be as important for production, but are important indicators of ecosystem health. In Vietnam authorities launched a campaign to motivate farmers to conserve bees and their relatives.

More than 99% of the hymenoptera were parasitoids and predators

Earlier we computed the species richness of the parasitoids and found that this index was related to the flowering flora of the neighboring habitats. Thus ecological engineering practices, like enriching the areas surrounding the rice crop with flowering plants as practiced in Vietnam and Thailand can restore resilience of rice fields to pest attacks.

The full report is available.

Hainan Farmers’ Addiction to Insecticide Use Due to Extreme Loss Aversion?

M.M. Escalada, Visayas State University, Leyte, Philippines,
L Wang, Q. Yuan, D. Cai, Hainan University, Hai Kou, China and
K.L. Heong, International Rice Research Institute, Los Baños, Philippines

Farmers being interviewed by trained student enumerators.


In making pest management decisions, farmers always face uncertainty and often adopt the bounded rationality approach. In this approach, as opposed to unbounded rationality, farmers will tend to “satisfice” rather than “optimize.” Satisficing, a combination of sufficing and satisfying, is a word of Scottish origin to characterize decision making in conditions of limited time, knowledge, and computational capacities using simple rules or “Heuristic”, a term to refer to an informal rule-of-thumb used in decision making. Heuristics are developed through experience and guesswork about possible outcomes and may thus have inherent faults and biases. Research to understand farmers’ current heuristics and reasons for their adoption will help scientists frame alternative heuristics that improve outcomes (Escalada and Heong, 2012).

In an earlier work on the rice leaffolder, Cnaphalocrocis medinalis (Guenée), a simple rule-of-thumb or ‘heuristic’ was which was in conflict with prevailing belief that spraying was necessary, was communicated to farmers and they were encouraged to test the rule. The heuristic stated: ‘In the first 30 days after transplanting (or 40 days after sowing), leaffolder control is not necessary’.

In this leaffolder example, farmers sprayed insecticides to control the larvae (often called “chuang” or “worms”) because of they are highly visible.  Farmers tend to strongly believe that leaf damages will lead to yield loss and that the worms will multiply quickly and thus need to be killed immediately. These beliefs might stem from farmers overestimating potential losses and their loss aversion behavior.

In decision theory, loss aversion is the tendency of people to strongly prefer avoiding losses to acquiring gains. The phenomenon was first described by Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman (1974) when they developed Prospect Theory.

In Hainan, we surveyed 411 rice farmers in December 2010-January 2011 and found that farmers would apply insecticides regardless of whether pests were present or can potentially cause yield loss. About 58% of the sprays had no specific targets, 13% were targeted at leaf folders, 19% at planthoppers and the remaining 10 % of the sprays were targeted at stem borers and minor pests like “general worms”. Sixty-three (63%) percent of the farmers strongly thought that “all insects in rice fields are harmful” and 83% of the farmers believed that insecticides MUST be used to achieve high yields.


Relationship between farmers’ yields and number of insecticides applied. Means and std error bars.

When we plotted farm yields with the number of insecticide sprays used, we obtained no significance (F = 2.20; p = 0.139) and a negative regression (coefficient = – 0.081). Farm yields varied from 3 to 12 ton per ha, while number of insecticide sprays ranged from zero to 12. Two farmers sprayed more than 10 times and their yields were less than 4 tons/ha, while the 6 farmers who did not spray anything averaged 5 tons/ha. Farmers that had higher sprays seem to have higher variability.



Escalada, M.M. and Heong, K.L. (2012). Using decision theory and sociological tools to facilitate adoption of biodiversity-based pest management strategies. In Gurr, G.M., Wratten, S.D., Snyder, W.E., Read, D.M.Y. (Eds). Biodiversity and Insect Pests: Key Issues for Sustainable Management. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., UK. Pp 199 – 213.

Tversky A. & Kahneman D. (1974) Judgment under uncertainty: heuristics and biases. Science. 185,1124-1131.