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Everton Pires Soliman

Senior Forest Protection Researcher at Suzano


What is a pest?

The pest concept, although it connotes biological relevance, is a financial term, as it is an insect that, occurring in planting, can cause production losses. If it didn't cause economic damage, it would just be an insect in the forest. In war scenarios, when we have an enemy (in this case, pests) and an impasse (pests need food, and we need production), it is necessary to develop coexistence strategies and, in severe cases, containment.

Insect pests are generally adapted, evolved, numerous and disperse easily, and, in order to live with them, the Integrated Pest Management was created by the scientific community, which consists of a package of pest management actions, based on the results of scientific research. Integrated Pest Management also emerged in agriculture to help solve problems in conventional pest management, including insect resistance to insecticides, resurgence of pests and renewal of the pest control strategy.

In this way, the challenge is to bring Integrated Pest Management from academic theory to practice in more than 1.5 million hectares with eucalyptus, as for us at Suzano. The academic concept was summarized and focused on practical aspects of the wood production routine, aiming to have a decision system for the use of control tactics, alone or harmoniously associated , in a management strategy based on cost-benefit analyzes that take into account the economic, social and environmental interest and/or impact.

Management actions are based on three principles: detection, monitoring and pest control. In detection, it is necessary to know the insect pest that one wants to find, requiring the training of field teams. Population fluctuation studies of the target pest and its natural enemies make it possible to identify times of occurrence and their interaction with environmental factors, thus facilitating quick detection, a key factor for the success of Integrated Pest Management.

The second principle is monitoring, which consists of quantifying the incidence of the pest (insect population density and spatial distribution) and the severity of its attack (damage to the plant), which varies for each insect (cycle, attack pattern, dispersion et cetera). In monitoring, the natural biological control of the pest is also evaluated, which occurs through natural enemies that occur in plantations and reduce the pest population.

Monitoring information helps in the last pillar of Integrated Pest Management, decision making, when available control tactics are used synergistically to control the pest, whether in a preventive or curative strategy. Currently, we have several control strategies; the most used in the forest sector are: genetic (resistant or tolerant clones), cultural (cultural tactics that reduce pest pressure), biological (use of microorganisms or other insects that lead to pest death) and chemical (insecticides).

Unfortunately, Integrated Pest Management is not a product capable of to be acquired, as it is developed in a personalized way for each reality (age of the crop, region, type of damage, financial value of the product, relief, availability of insecticides, time of action, etc.). For each pest species, detection, monitoring and control techniques are developed, and the set of these recommendations is called Integrated Pest Management.

For example, eucalyptus defoliator caterpillars, such as Thyrinteina arnobia: detection of the pest can occur in inspections of plantations, at the time of occurrence, concentrated in more endemic regions and in clones known to be more attractive than others (for this pest, there is no resistant commercial clone). After detecting, monitoring can be carried out with a light trap (attractive to the adult stage of moths), direct evaluation of the branches (used for the larval stage of caterpillars and pupa) and evaluation of excrements (sampling correlated with the larval stage of caterpillars).

Based on the monitoring information, control can be via: release of few parasitoids from pupae or predators (low infestation); release of many parasitoids from pupae (medium infestation); and/or spraying of physiological biological insecticides and mass collection of adults (high infestation).

For another species of forest caterpillar, Sarsina violacens, although it causes the same damage as Thyrinteina arnobia, the Integrated Pest Management is adjusted in the monitoring phase due to the behavior of the caterpillars in remaining on the trunk during the day. In this case, instead of making a direct assessment on the branches, the pest is quantified on the stem. This is one of many other evidences that Integrated Pest Management must be personalized, respecting the peculiarities and specificities of each challenge to be managed.

The Integrated Pest Management of forest pests cannot be developed at the moment of a population outbreak of the pest, its conception must be combined with the production strategy as an auxiliary technique in the prevention of potential productive losses. If carried out accurately and effectively, it ensures production sustainability and optimization in the use of available resources for pest management. Therefore, it is an extremely scientific tool, but one that fits well into the operational routine of wood producers.