Protecting Rice Production, a Staple Food for the World

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close up of bowl of rice

Every day, more than half of the world’s population enjoys rice as a mainstay of their diets. Filled with valuable nutrients and calories, rice is one of the three most important grains to the human diet, along with maize and wheat, and almost all of it—more than 90 percent—is grown in Asia.1

Rice is intrinsic to the world’s economy—exports from Asian countries were valued at U.S. $20 billion in 20212—but it is also vital in domestic markets. Most rice is grown for self-sufficiency3 and is a critical source of food in developing countries. Over half a billion people who live on less than U.S. $1.25 per day reside in rice-producing areas4 and in lower-income countries, nearly a fifth of all crop area harvested is rice.5

Consumption of rice is increasing around the world. Most rice exported from Asia is imported by nations in Europe and Africa. Rice is considered a traditional staple food in many western African countries, and in other parts of the continent, it has replaced other staples, especially in urban areas, because it’s easy to prepare and affordable.5 Global rice consumption is expected to reach 570 million tonnes in 2025,6 an increase of about 12 percent over the next three years.

Rice is labor intensive to cultivate, and in many countries, it can be grown continuously without rotation, providing up to three harvests per year. It can be farmed on the same plot of land for centuries.4

Keeping up with growing demand for rice is a global food challenge. Today, less land and water are available for expanding rice production. That means farmers need to make the hectares they already farm more productive. Rice farmers are looking for ways to increase yield through methods like improved management practices, better germplasm3 and improved crop protection. Crop protection is essential to help farmers in the Asia-Pacific region combat one of the biggest threats to growing more abundant harvests—brown planthoppers (BPH).

brown planthopper close up
brown planthopper close up

Brown planthoppers reproduce rapidly and can quickly destroy whole harvests, making them a serious threat to food security for billions of people who depend on rice as a staple food.

Brown planthoppers: An evolving threat

It seems that for as long as farmers have been growing rice, BPH have threatened to consume it. This is especially true in tropical climates and in Japan. The first recorded outbreaks of BPH date back to the 7th century in Japan7 and the insect continues to be the most damaging pest in rice, causing damage through feeding and the transmission of diseases that can stunt plant growth.8 BPH is an incredibly efficient pest, designed to feed and multiply. Planthoppers reproduce rapidly, and a single female can lay up to 700 eggs.9 As tiny as the grains of rice they threaten, BPH can be difficult to spot before infestation has taken hold. When densities reach 400-500 nymphs or 200 adults per plant, farmers can experience total crop loss,10 devastating food supplies and incomes.

BPH are very challenging to control. The pest can develop resistance to insecticides if the same products are overused or if modes of action are not rotated properly according to integrated resistance management strategies.

Climate change is expected to intensify the BPH threat. As temperatures rise and weather patterns change, scientists predict BPH populations will increase in areas already under pressure, and that the pest will spread to places where it previously had not been a problem. These effects could be especially catastrophic in India, the second-largest producer of rice, and number-one exporter in the world.2,8

Solutions to help protect harvests that prevent hunger

Protecting rice production requires balancing multiple factors: conserving land and water resources, reducing risks of resistance and helping farmers prepare to meet evolving pest pressures from climate change. Pyraxalt™ active, an active ingredient from Corteva Agriscience, is one new tool farmers can use to help meet these goals. When used early—when the pest reaches the economic threshold level*—Pyraxalt effectively controls first-generation BPH populations with outstanding residual control that lasts up to 21 days. It also helps reduce the severity of the second generation, so BPH can be managed effectively through the crop season. Pyraxalt provides farmers with a unique mode of action and is labeled for only one application per season, helping to reduce the risk of resistance development. It’s also highly selective, so it has minimal impact on beneficial insects, including insects that prey on BPH and help naturally suppress their populations.

The world consumes nearly 510 million metric tons of rice per year11—and the crop is growing in popularity today. Protecting this vital source of calories, vitamins and minerals calls for the most innovative solutions we can devise. That includes development of better management techniques, new cultivation strategies, more robust germplasm and products that can keep rice safe from devastating pests. Innovative and sustainable active ingredients like Pyraxalt help ensure more of this staple grain stays out of the mouths of insects and makes it onto the plates of people around the world.

Learn more about Pyraxalt active

*5-10 planthoppers per hill in transplanted paddy rice and 200-250 per 0.25m2 in direct-seeded rice

1 Naomi K. Fukagawa and Lewis H. Ziska, “Rice: Importance for Global Nutrition,” Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology 65, no. Supplement (November 2019): pp. S2-S3,

2 Daniel Workman, “Rice Exports by Country,” 2021, accessed September 19, 2022, https://www.

3 T.H. Fairhurst and A. Doberman, “ Rice in the Global Food Supply,” Better Crops International 16, no. Special Supplement (May 2002), Global_Food_Supply.

4 Mary Williams, “Robert Zeigler. Importance of Rice Science and World Food Security,” Plantae (American Society of Plant Biologists, February 14, 2017), of-rice-science-and-world-food-security/.

5 Sushil Pandey, Rice in the Global Economy: Strategic Research and Policy Issues for Food Security (Manila, Philippines: International Rice Research Institute, 2010).

6 Grain Central, “Global Rice Consumption Continues to Grow,” Grain Central, March 26, 2018,

7 E.A. Heinrichs, “Chemical Control of the Brown Planthopper,” in Brown Planthopper: Threat to Rice Production in Asia (Los Baños, Philippines: International Rice Research Institute, 1979), pp. 145-167.

8 Govindharaj Guru-Pirasanna-Pandi et al., “Predicting the Brown Planthopper, Nilaparvata Lugens (Stål) (Hemiptera: Delphacidae) Potential Distribution under Climatic Change Scenarios in India,” Current Science 121, no. 12 (December 25, 2021): pp. 1600-1609, 1609.

9 “How an Insect Pest Switches from Sluggish Super Breeder to Flying Invader,” Duke Today (Duke University, March 18, 2015),

10 Jo Catindig, “Planthopper,” Planthopper - Rice Knowledge Bank (IRRI), accessed September 19, 2022,

11 Katherine Beck, “How Much Rice Does the Average American Actually Eat?,” MSN, August 26, 2022, eat/ar-AA118R8B?li=BBnba9O.