Solution to control rice pest close at hand

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Washington, August 13 (ANI): A Texas researcher is making great strides in finding a solution to control the rice water weevil, a pest that is making a sizable dent in the size and quality of global rice supplies.

"I'm looking for ways to integrate a variety of treatments to manage pests efficiently and economically," said Dr. Michael Way, Texas AgriLife Research entomologist at Beaumont, who has been working with rice and soybeans there since 1982.

Rice water weevils are among the most serious pests in terms of causing lower yields and grain quality, according to Way.

They have become a global pest - making it to California by the 1950s, to Japan in the 1970s, then China, Taiwan and more recently, Italy.

In Texas, farmers can lose from 500-1,000 pounds per acre as this weevil swims, crawls and flies through the field, laying eggs underwater so the larvae can grow by gnawing on rice plant roots, the researcher explained.

Way spent six years sweeping through fields, looking for water weevil damage to determine at what level it would make sense for a farmer to spend money controlling the pest.

According to him, farmers had been referring to old data, though many new rice varieties are being grown and with newer cultural methods, and it was not known whether these changes had made a difference on rice weevil control.

Armed with many seasons of field data from test areas grown as much like true farm situations as possible, Way and then-graduate student Luis Espino compared protected versus unprotected plots with those planted on a variety of dates.

The protected plots were treated with various insecticides.

"What we found is that if farmers plant during the optimum planting window, then they can expect the greatest yield losses due to water weevil," Way said. "And since we don't recommend planting outside that optimum time, it behooves them to control for the weevil," he added.

"Usually, our highest management level farmers plant during that optimum time, from end of March to mid-April, and that enables them to produce a ratoon, or second crop as well. So, it makes good economic sense to control for the weevil," he said.

Researchers have also made strides in developing products that are not as toxic to the environment as in the past.

"One of these is a seed treatment with rynaxypyr, a chemical that is far less toxic to mammals and wildlife than previous compounds," Way said. "Reports from the field this year where this product was used are very, very encouraging," he added. (ANI)

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