A CABI working paper looking at the impact of agricultural policies with a specific focus on subsidized sustainable biological controls has revealed that the CABI-led Plantwise programme played a key role in reducing China’s reliance on more harmful pesticides.
Lead authors Dr Yan Qiao, of the Beijing Plant Protection Station, and CABI’s Dr Min Wan and Dr Stefan Toepfer, revealed that the combination of pesticide reduction policies, subsidies and effective agricultural extension services – such as Plantwise plant clinics appears to be a ‘sound example of successful agri-policy implementation’.
The researchers, who outline their findings in the CABI Working Paper: ‘Implementing Agri-policies on Pesticide Reduction through Subsidies and Plant Clinics in China’, found that, in Beijing, the crop area treated with non-chemical or least toxic/residual pesticides was 45 percent more in 2018 than it was three years previously in 2015.
Wei et al also discovered, after analysing more than 72,000 ‘prescription forms’ from over 6,000 farmers in the Beijing area that prescriptions for non-chemical plant protection products increased by 20 percent while prescriptions for pesticides decreased by 4 percent.
The results follow the creation of a new online tool, the ‘Beijing Pesticide Reduction Management System’ (BPRMS), as an extension of the ‘Plantwise Online Management System’ which manages prescription data, subsidies, plant clinics and agri-input shops and suppliers.
The BPRMS works by farmers taking a Crop Health Security Card to a plant clinic to get a personalised prescription based on their specific plant health problem and buy subsidized products – such as predatory mites – in the agri-input shops.
Dr Qiao said, “Roughly 311,000 tonnes of active pesticides were used each year in China between 2012 and 2014 – a 9.2 percent increase on the period 2009-2011. Not only does the overuse of pesticides lead to higher production costs but they may adversely impact both food safety and the environment.
“While, for example, pesticides used to manage pests in vegetables account for over 60 percent of all pesticides used in the Beijing area – it is essential that we reduce their use by changing crop protection techniques in the greenhouse vegetable industry through the application of natural enemies or biopesticides.”
In 2015, the Chinese government published the ‘Pesticide and Fertilizer Zero Growth Action Plan 2015–2020’, in which concrete targets were set to ultimately keep pesticide use below the average level of 2012-2014.
Accordingly, in 2018, 30 million CNY (4.4 million USD) of subsidies were made available by the Beijing local government via the BPPS for ‘Green Pest Control products for farmers in the Beijing area, and the subsidy amount was increased to 100 million CNY in 2019.
Products were subsidized at different rates prioritizing natural enemies (macrobial biocontrol agents), followed by pollinating insects, biopesticides and plant protection tools such as traps, and finally by least toxic/least residual synthetic pesticides.
The plant clinic involvement led to a better reach of smallholder farmers, and facilitated a change in their agricultural practices leading to a reduction of problematic pesticides.
Dr Toepfer, working under the auspice of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA) – CABI Joint Laboratory for Biosafety, said, “The combination of pesticide reduction policies, subsidies and effective agricultural extension services such as plant clinics appears to be a good example of successful agri-policy implementation.”
Plantwise is a global programme led by CABI, which helps farmers lose less of what they grow to plant health problems. Plant clinics, of which there are 100+ in China, are a meeting place where local agricultural advisory officers, known as plant doctors, help farmers struggling with plant pests and diseases. They provide diagnoses and management advice for any problem and any crop.
Wei, X., Zhao, L., Qiao, Y., Wang, B., Wan, M. and Toepfer, S. (2019) Implementing agri-
policies on pesticide reduction through subsidies and plant clinics in China. CABI Working Paper 13, 25pp.
This document is also available in a Chinese version.