Enhancing the parasitism of insect herbivores through diversification of habitat in Philippine rice fields

Abstract

The diversification of farming landscapes is proposed as a method to increase farm productivity while at the same time enhancing pest regulation services provided by the natural enemies of insect herbivores. In this study, areas of diversified and conventional rice fields (with 2–14 fields per area = 0.42–1.31 ha) were established at three sites in the Philippines. The diversified areas had a series (> 40 per hectare) of small (< 2 m2) vegetable patches interspersed along rice bunds (levees). The abundance of planthopper and lepidopteran pests in these areas was monitored during two consecutive cropping seasons using sweep nets with rice yield and damage recorded at the end of each season. Mortality of brown planthopper (Nilaparvata lugens) and yellow stemborer (Scirpophaga incertulas) eggs was monitored through field exposures of infested rice plants. There were no differences in rice yields between the conventional and diversified areas; however, a range of vegetables were produced as a supplementary product from the diversified rice areas. Diversification had no effect on planthopper or leaffolder (Cnaphalocrocis medinalis) abundance at the sites. Adult stemborers (Scirpophaga incertulas) were more abundant in the diversified areas; however, stemborer damage was similar between area treatments in both years. Vegetable patches did not increase parasitism of planthopper eggs; however, egg parasitism was highest close to the vegetable patches, suggesting that egg parasitoids interacted with the patches. Mortality of stemborer eggs was higher in the diversified areas than in the conventional areas. Parasitism due to Trichogramma japonicum and other egg parasitoids was also higher in the diversified areas. These results indicate the potential for vegetable patches to enhance the biological control services provided by egg parasitoids in rice fields; however, the study also indicates a need to carefully select vegetable crops that avoid any potential benefits for rice pests. We discuss the need for further research into diversified farms as a means of achieving sustainable rice production in Asia.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank Alberto Naredo, Reyuel Quintana, Vincent Vertudes, Eduard Tongohan, Arriza Arida, Jesus Yanes Figueroa and Ellen Genil for advice and assistance throughout this study. We thank anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on the manuscript. This project was funded by the Philippine Department of Agriculture—Bureau of Agricultural Research (Project: Developing ecological engineering approaches to restore and conserve ecosystem services for pest management for sustainable rice production in the Philippines), the German Ministry of Science and Education (BMBF; Project: Land-use intensity and Ecological Engineering—Assessment Tools for risks and Opportunities in irrigated rice based production systems [LEGATO]; funding code: 01LL0917A), the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP) and the Faculty of Life Sciences of the University of Technology Sydney.

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Correspondence to Finbarr G. Horgan.

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Vu, Q., Ramal, A.F., Villegas, J.M. et al. Enhancing the parasitism of insect herbivores through diversification of habitat in Philippine rice fields. Paddy Water Environ 16, 379–390 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10333-018-0662-y

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Keywords

  • Biodiversity
  • Crop diversification
  • Ecosystem services
  • Ecological engineering
  • Stemborers
  • Planthoppers
  • Flower strips