CENTRAL LUZON GROWS THE 'GREENEST RICE'

Los Banos, Laguna, May 25, 2003 -- The fertile plains of Central 
Luzon---the so-called rice granary of the Philippines---have become one of 
the greenest rice bowls in all of Asia, studies by two rice research 
organizations showed.

Studies conducted by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (Philrice) and 
the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) have shown that rice 
growers in Central Luzon use less insecticide than farmers in other major 
rice-growing areas in the region.

While many other Asian rice fields continue to use high levels of 
insecticide and other chemicals, or have even increased their consumption, 
the rice-growing areas of Central Luzon have been using less and less 
insecticide since the late 1980s.

But despite the steep decline in insecticide use, IRRI director general 
Ronald P. Cantrell said Central Luzon farmers were able to increase their 
rice yields over the same period, from an average of 2.75 tons to close to 
3.25 tons per hectare by 2002.

IRRI research also showed that some farmers who had successfully reduced 
their insecticide use saved up to 1,000 pesos per hectare.

"This result is testimony to the success and hard work of PhilRice and the 
other groups in the Philippines who over many years have been promoting the 
use of integrated pest management," Cantrell said.

According to IRRI, insecticide use in Central Luzon, which peaked in the 
mid-1980s, was now at an "historic low, though some farmers still use 
insecticides as a last resort to prevent serious crop loss."

The research also showed that herbicide use peaked in the early 1990s and 
has slowly declined since then. Farmers, however, continue to use 
herbicides more frequently than insecticides.

Central Luzon is composed of the provinces of Pampanga, Bulacan, Tarlac, 
Bataan, Zambales and Nueva Ecija.

Cantrell said the "mistakes" of the Green Revolution "where too much 
emphasis was sometimes put on the use of chemicals for pest control have 
clearly been recognized and corrected."

"Because of their toxicity, insecticides really should be used by farmers 
as a last resort, and we are very pleased to see that farmers have realized 
this for many years, especially here in the Philippines," Cantrell said.

Gary Jahn, an insect ecologist at IRRI, said most insecticide use on rice 
was a waste of the farmers' time and money because when applied at the 
wrong time, it had no impact on the crop's yield.

Jahn said insecticides may also be applied at the right time but in the 
wrong way, due to either poor application techniques, incorrect dosage, or 
even use of the wrong chemical.

"What we hope to learn next is why the farmers of Central Luzon have 
learned these lessons so much more quickly than farmers elsewhere," Jahn 
added.

Reductions in insecticide use have been achieved in other countries, but in 
most cases, after a period of usage decline, farmers started to increase 
their use again.

PhilRice researchers said one of the key factors continuing to influence 
Philippine farmers is the return of fish, frogs and edible snails to their 
farms, confirming the positive environmental impact of IPM strategies.
Irrigation also played an important role in the reduction of insecticide use.

"Farmers in Central Luzon are able to practice synchronous planting because 
water is released at the same time," said Artemio Vasallo, a PhilRice 
training specialist.

Vasallo explained that when all the farmers in an area plant and harvest at 
the same time, the post-harvest "famine" experienced by insect pests 
sharply slashes their populations.

"Thus, the incidence of pests is more manageable in Central Luzon than in 
Iloilo or some parts of Mindanao, where asynchronous planting is more 
prevalent," Vasallo said. (By Gerald Lacuarta, Inquirer)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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