Flying heroes of Ecuador's rice fields

Research Information
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Appropriate Technology, 2014, 41 (4), pp. 44 - 45
Issue Date:
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Apple snails (Pomacea spp.) have been a problem for Asian rice farmers for decades. However, the pest was first noticed in 2005, and since then, the snail has spread to most of Ecuador's major rice-growing regions. Losses to the rice sector from apple snails in 2013 alone were estimated at over US$56 million. However, Ecuadorean rice farmers have one big advantage in dealing with apple snails over their Asian counterparts -- the snail kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis), a predatory bird that specialises in eating snails. Meanwhile, Agrocalidad, Ecuador's agricultural extension service, has been working with farmers to control snail damage to rice. However, although Agrocalidad discourages the use of highly toxic insecticides, farmers overwhelmingly use these chemicals, particularly endosulfan, to kill the snails. For scientists, consequently, the events in Ecuador are an opportunity to better understand how snails invade rice and how predators and prey interact with each other.
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