Pitting nature against pests
"I have wasps to take care of the yellow stemborers and green leaffolders, spiders to control the brown planthopper and ducks and tadpoles to feed on the menacing golden apple snail. So why should I use insecticides?" says Sesinando Masajo, a 61-year-old farmer from the Laguna province of the Philippines, who has been practicing insecticide-free rice farming on 26.5 ha since 1982.
Says K L Heong, entomologist and coordinator of the integrated pest management programme at the IRRI 'With an average yield of 8.7 tonnes per ha (t/h) in the dry season (about triple the national average) and 3.8-4 t/h in the wet season, Masajo has amply demonstrated that insecticide free farming with good fertiliser, water and soil management, can be more than profitable."
Prior to 1982, while employed at the IRRI and later at a commercial farm in Mindanao, Masajo supervised 2,148 crops of rice, and used pesticides to control rice pests and weeds. During this time, he observed that the greater the use of insecticides, the more serious was the pest problem.
Masajo also noticed that farmers who did not spray insecticides did not suffer crop loss due to pest damage. These observations and the adverse effects of insecticides on his health convinced him to stop the use of insecticides.
Farmers, first and foremost, need courage to practice insecticide-free rice farming," advises',Masajo, adding that -farmers should not panic at the first sight of pests nor spray insecticides but should learn to rely on friendly creatures to control pests.