Ecological management of rodents, weeds, insects and birds in rice agro-ecosystems – biological and social dimensions


Management of pests (rodents, weeds, insects, birds and golden apple snails) of rice needs both a strong ecological as well as a social dimension. IRRI has internationally renowned scientists in each of these research fields and will combine with Prof Charles Krebs (Canada) to provide a training course that will bring together animal and plant scientists, communication specialists and social scientists to share advances in these areas. 

If in developing countries we can foster the importance of population ecology in pest management, together with an emphasis on farmer participatory research as a foundation for technology transfer, then we are confident that the next decade will see rapid advances in pest management.

Learning Objective

During the course, participants will have the opportunity to acquire knowledge and skills in:

•    Applying knowledge of ecology toward the management of rodents, weeds and insects in rice agro-ecosystems;
•    Using the scientific approach to study pest management at a landscape level;
•    Applying field and computer technologies that lead to better management;
•    Decision analysis of pest problems, and determining processes and factors that influence farmer’s decisions;
•    Principles for effective transfer of knowledge to end users (eg. extension officers; farmers; policy makers)
Course Content


Rodents, weeds, and insects cause major losses in rice crops throughout the world and their management continues to pose major challenges to farmers and agriculturalists.    Rodent pest management went through a period of stagnation in the 1980s and 1990s mainly because there was too little research effort to understand the biology, behavior and habitat use of the species we are attempting to manage. In Asia, rats consume enough rice to feed 180 to 350 million people for a year. Their management is a high priority. Weeds cause chronic losses to rice production and poor rice farmers spend much of their labour trying to control the impact of weeds.  Changes to rice-based farming systems, including a greater diversity in crops and the advent of direct seeded rice and water shortages are leading to new challenges for farmers because of changes in the weed communities. Insect pest management in rice cropping systems has made strong progress through IPM, the development of tolerant varieties of rice, and a more recent development of eco-engineering. However, there are still important challenges to successful IPM, particularly the social dimensions.   

Localised heavy losses associated with the patchy destruction of crops by pests and diseases have resulted in major concerns for food stability at the village level. With the expected increase in human population growth in these countries, the situation will become more acute. There is a growing demand, particularly in developing countries, for pest control strategies that either have less reliance on chemicals or can better target their use. There has been strong progress with ecologically-based pest management approaches which builds on the progress made with integrated pest management (IPM). These include ecologically-based rodent management, ecological weed management and eco-engineering of a landscape to reduce losses to insects. IRRI will host a training course that will bring mammalogists, weed scientists, social scientists, entomologists and a bird ecologist together to share advances in these areas. 

We will present a course covering the basic biology and ecology of pests (with the emphasis on rodents, weeds and insects), and how this information has provided management strategies at a community level that are more sustainable and environmentally benign. Ecologically-based pest management and farmer participatory research will be the themes for this course.

Topics to be covered
  • The development of Integrated Pest Management in rice cropping systems
  • Ecologically-based management, the re-emergence of a paradigm for pest management
  • Basic population ecology – general principles for insect, rodent, weed, snail and bird management
  • Population and behavioural ecology of rodents
  • Community ecology of weeds
  • Biological control of rodent pests
  • Cultural control of weeds
  • IPM for insect pests – the social dimension
  • The social and cultural dimension to pest management
  • Pathways for extending results to end-users
  • Field studies on rodents, weeds, insects, birds and golden apple snails – a coverage of fundamental methodologies
  • Decision analysis of needs, knowledge, attitudes and practices of farmers
  • Action learning project – at the beginning of the course each participant will present research they are currently involved with or are planning to conduct soon. At the end of the course each participant will return to their project and indicate what they would now do differently.
Duration and Location of the Course

This will be a 2-week course held at the Training Center of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Los Baňos, Philippines.  Accommodation and meals are provided at IRRI.

Course Presenters
  • Dr. Grant Singleton (IRRI), expert on ecologically-based rodent management; rodent diseases; farmer-participatory research
  • Dr. David Johnson (IRRI) expert on integrated weed management; rice agronomy
  • Prof Charles Krebs (Visiting Professor, University of Canberra), population ecologist; predator-prey interactions; community ecologist; biomathematician.
  • Dr. Finbarr Horgan (IRRI), expert on insect ecology and management
  • Dr. Bhagirath Chauhan (IRRI), expert on weed ecology and weed science
  • Dr. Alexander Stuart (IRRI), expert on ecology and management of insects, rodents and snails
  • Ms. Rica Flor (IRRI/Wageningen University; PhD student), social scientist; cultural and social impact assessment
  • Ms. Trina Mendoza (IRRI), communication science
  • Mr, Richard Smedley (IRRI, University of Reading; PhD student), bird ecology

The course will cater for a maximum of 20 participants. Participants are expected to find their own funds or at least partial funding to attend. The course is aimed to cater for a mix of young scientists, mid career agricultural scientists, and decision makers in developing countries.

Places will be available for people from developed countries who can cover their course fees.


Dr. Grant Singleton
Senior Scientist, IRRC Coordination Unit
Crop and Environmental Sciences Division

Dr. Noel Magor

Head, Training Center

International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)
DAPO Box 7777, Metro Manila, Philippines
Phone: (63- 2) 845-0563; 580 5600
Fax: (63- 2) 891-1292; 580 5699