Diversified Rice Farms with Vegetable Plots and Flower Strips Are Associated with Fewer Pesticide Applications in the Philippines

A study to examine the impact of farm diversification and other sustainability practices on pesticide use by rice farmers in the Philippines.

Authors: Finbarr G. Horgan, Enrique A. Mundaca, Buyung A R Hadi, Eduardo Crisol-Martínez
Published in: Insects


Ecological engineering is defined as the design of sustainable ecosystems for the benefit of both human society and the environment. In Southeast Asia, researchers have applied ecological engineering by diversifying farms using flower strips to restore regulatory services to rice ecosystems and thereby reduce herbivore-related yield losses and overall pesticide use.

We conducted a survey of 302 rice farmers across four regions of the Philippines to assess their farm diversification practices and determine possible associations with pesticide use. Rice was the main product on all farms; however, the farmers also produced fruits and vegetables, either rotated with rice (47% of the farmers) or in small plots in adjacent farmland. In addition, 64% of the farmers produced flowers, herbs, and/or vegetables on rice bunds. Vegetables were cultivated mainly to supplement household food or incomes, but 30% of the farmers also believed that the vegetables reduced pest and weed damage to their rice.

We found that 16% of the farmers grew flowers on their bunds to reduce pest damage to rice and vegetables, and many farmers applied botanical extracts, growth stimulants, and insect traps to reduce damage to the vegetables. Some farmers avoided insecticides on rice by using Trichogramma cards. Planting flowers on rice bunds, rearing ducks in the rice fields, and farmers’ recognition of beneficial rice arthropods were statistically significantly associated with lower pesticide (particularly, insecticide) applications to rice. Our results indicate that farm diversification to produce supplementary foods for rural households and access to alternative pest management options can reduce pesticide use on rice farms in tropical Asia.