Let EPA know the importance of neonic insecticides

Dr. Mo Way
Rice Research Entomologist

In Texas, our main rice pests are the rice water weevil, chinch bug, rice stink bug and stem borers — primarily the Mexican rice borer. We have tools to control all these pests, but we must use these insecticides following label instructions.

Over the years, we have lost excellent pest management tools because of misuse and abuse. FOLLOW LABEL INSTRUCTIONS TO THE LETTER! We can’t afford to lose any more options for pest control.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is currently concerned about neonicotinoid insecticides, which in some crops are linked to honeybee mortality. Neonicotinoids labeled for use in Texas rice are CruiserMaxx Rice, NipsIt Inside, Belay and Tenchu 20SG.

All these insecticides are critical to profitable/sustainable rice production in the state.

Rice is a self-pollinating plant and is not very attractive to honeybees. I have observed honeybees foraging in flowering rice, but this is rare.

My Arkansas and Mississippi colleagues — Drs. Gus Lorenz and Jeff Gore — have done some excellent work quantifying honeybee presence in heading rice. Their bottom line: Very few honeybees (or native bees) forage in rice. If you want more information, contact Gus or Jeff at glorenz@uaex.edu or JGore@drec.msstate.edu, respectively. They recently presented their data at the 37th Rice Technical Working Group in Long Beach, California.

EPA is now accepting comments from stakeholders regarding neonicotinoids. I submitted comments on behalf of Texas (and other Southern rice-producing states) for seed treatment and foliar-applied neonicotinoids.

I encourage you readers to also submit comments in favor of continued use of neonicotinoids in rice. If you want copies of my comments and/or want to submit your own, contact me at moway@aesrg.tamu.edu, 409-239-4265 or 409-658-2186.

I recently met with EPA scientists at their headquarters in Washington, D.C., during a “Rice Production 101” meeting. Our goal was to educate and answer questions about rice production in the United States.

This meeting was organized by Lydia Holmes of USA Rice. Dr. Dustin Harrell (Louisiana State University), Dr. Bobby Golden (Mississippi State University) and Roberta Firoved (representing California) gave outstanding presentations on general rice-production practices, including water management, in all the U.S. rice-producing regions.

Folks at EPA need to know the practicalities of rice production and need to understand how vital our industry is to wildlife conservation and protection.

So this was not a contentious meeting but rather an educational seminar. Making regulatory decisions in a vacuum is a sure way to undermine our rice industry. Clearly, we want to protect the environment, but we also want to continue producing healthy, safe, abundant food. We can do both, but it requires research, knowledge transfer and cooperation with our regulatory agencies.

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