Ali, M. P., M. N. Bari, S. S. Haque, M. M. Kabir, S. Afrin, F. Nowrin, M. S. Islam, and D. A. Landis. 2019. Establishing next-generation pest control services in rice fields: eco-agriculture. Scientific Reports 9:10180.
Pesticides are commonly used in food crop production systems to control crop pests and diseases and ensure maximum yield with high market value. However, the accumulation of these chemical inputs in crop fields increases risks to biodiversity and human health. In addition, people are increasingly seeking foods in which pesticide residues are low or absent and that have been produced in a sustainable fashion. More than half of the world’s human population is dependent on rice as a staple food and chemical pesticides to control pests is the dominant paradigm in rice production. In contrast, the use of natural enemies to suppress crop pests has the potential to reduce chemical pesticide inputs in rice production systems. Currently, predators and parasitoids often do not persist in rice production landscapes due to the absence of shelter or nutritional sources. In this study, we modified the existing rice landscape through an eco-engineering technique that aims to increase natural biocontrol agents for crop protection. In this system, planting nectar-rich flowering plants on rice bunds provides food and shelter to enhance biocontrol agent activity and reduce pest numbers, while maintaining grain yield. The abundance of predators and parasitoids and parasitism rates increased significantly in the eco-engineering plots compared to the insecticide-treated and control plots. Moreover, a significantly lower number of principal insect pests and damage symptoms were found in treatments where flowering plants were grown on bunds than in plots where such plants were not grown. This study indicates that manipulating habitat for natural enemies in rice landscapes enhances pest suppression and maintains equal yields while reducing the need for insecticide use in crop fields.
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