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Sustainably increasing maize and rice crop yields by up to 10% in the Greater Mekong Subregion


Two projects jointly implemented by the Institute of Plant Protection, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (IPP-CAAS) and CABI have successfully helped farmers in the Greater Mekong Subregion to increase their maize and rice crop yield by up to 10%. This was achieved by introducing natural alternatives to pesticides, in particular the release of tiny Trichogramma wasps, which control the major crop pests.

The story

Asia accounts for 30% of global rice production but is the world’s largest consumer of pesticides. The chemicals in pesticides can be harmful to the environment and human health, so interventions that help reduce their use can be beneficial in more ways than one.

CABI has been working in partnership with IPP-CAAS to apply its expertise in crop health to the Greater Mekong Subregion. This includes tackling crop pests that have devastated maize and rice production in Southwestern China, Laos and Myanmar. Here, the partnership

helps farmers to use natural (or biological) controls such as locally reared Trichogramma wasps. These are safer to use than chemicals and can be part of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategy, which can contribute to increased yields.

CABI has been busy advising farmers to adopt IPM measures, including balanced fertilization to give the right ratio of nutrients to crops, alternative wetting and drying of the rice to conserve water, pest monitoring and the application of Trichogramma wasps (the tiny wasps lay their eggs inside the eggs of pests, preventing the pests from hatching).

A recent impact study was conducted by CABI scientists Dr Dirk Babendreier, Dr Min Wan and Dr Dannie Romney, and published in the journal Insects. The results showed that, among the farmers surveyed, the use of pesticides was halved when they used Trichogramma wasps as a natural alternative to pesticides.

In addition, by using these more sustainable alternatives, farmers increased their yields by up to 10% and reduced their costs for pesticides.

Dr Babendreier said, “By anchoring biological control and several other IPM practices at governmental, extension, and, at a still relatively small-scale, farmer level, the research has helped pave the way for more sustainable maize and rice production, as well as establishing a better environment and healthier lives for the farm households in the region.”

Sustainable Development Goals

Zero Hunger

Developing a sustainable food system that helps smallholders meet the world's growing need for food.

Responsible Consumption and Production

Helping grow more from less land by introducing higher-yielding and environmentally responsible food production techniques.

Related projects

Improving the livelihoods of smallholder maize farmers around the Mekong

After rice, maize is the most important crop in the Mekong Delta. Insects including the Asian corn borer are a major threat to production. Fear of crop losses, together with a lack of alternative measures, can result in overuse of pesticides – posing health risks to farmers, consumers and the agro-ecosystem. This project will establish local production of an affordable biological control agent, the parasitic wasp trichogramma, which kills the eggs of maize pests.

Start: 01/04/2012 End: 01/04/2015