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Bianca Cristina Costa Gea e Nilmara Pereira Caires

Entomology researcher and Phytopathology Researcher, at Suzano, respectively


Integrated pest and disease management

The success of the Brazilian forestry sector is the result of decades of advances in the improvement and management of planted forests. Among the techniques that constantly evolve, the integrated management of pests and diseases stands out.

The entry and increase in the incidence of these organisms in areas cultivated with eucalyptus in Brazil in recent years, combined with the expansion of the forestry sector to regions that favor the incidence of some diseases and insect pest species, boosted the structuring of Integrated Pest and Disease Management, which uses different forms of detection, monitoring and control (biological, chemical, genetic, cultural, among others), in order to promote the rational use of chemical products to protect plants and mitigate impacts on society and the environment.

One of the three pillars of Integrated Pest and Disease Management is monitoring, which quantifies the incidence of Pests and Diseases and their severity in the plant, through the adoption of different strategies, depending on the biology and ecology of each organism. This makes it possible not only to detect early and obtain information about the geographic distribution of insects and diseases, but also to evaluate population density and the effectiveness of the control adopted. The importance of maintaining a solid pest and disease monitoring program in companies becomes clear when thinking about the protection of forests and the rational use of inputs and resources.

In order to minimize losses caused by these organisms, Suzano has evolved management strategies, such as the implementation of the Pest, Natural Enemy and Disease Analysis Network. Implemented since 2017, the network consists of installing yellow traps in plots, nurseries and factories to ensure early detection of pests and their natural enemies. As premises, there is the monthly collection of traps, as well as their evaluation quantifying each insect collected (pests or natural enemy).

The data is processed and made available internally to interested parties on a monthly basis. Depending on the population level of each pest/natural enemy, decision-making becomes possible, which can range from directing teams to on-site monitoring or releasing natural enemies. Monitoring leaf-cutter ants, the sector's main pest, which, even at low occurrence, leads to defoliation and consequently reduces productivity, is undoubtedly a success story for the Brazilian forestry sector in dealing with the pest.

Carried out every six months, its
evaluation parameters are the quantity and size of anthills, which combined with other parameters generate indexes recommending non-control, remonitoring, border control or control over the total area, allowing the rational use of the anticide, as we have already had cases that in 65% of the sampled area, there was no need for the control team to travel to the plot.

Constant monitoring of pests and diseases in clonal nurseries is of fundamental importance. The main disease of eucalyptus today, bacterial wilt, has as its causal agent the bacteria Ralstonia solanacearum, is transmitted to the field through contaminated seedlings. At Suzano, a health certification campaign for its own and third-party nurseries is carried out annually, through a census in all gutters. In this campaign, samples are collected and subjected to molecular analysis to detect ralstonia, the results are discussed with the operational area and the gutters that show positive results are recommended for renovation.

Compared to agriculture, the forestry sector uses a smaller amount of chemical pesticides to control diseases. This is due to the success in using genetic control through plant resistance. A solid Genetic Improvement program uses phenotyping of its main materials to understand and mitigate the risks of susceptible clones, excluding them from the planting program, if necessary. Through the program called Fenomics, in the last 20 years more than 6,500 genetic materials have been phenotyped under controlled or field conditions at Suzano.

If genetic control is the star for disease management, when we talk about pests, biological control is the highlight, with five laboratories with a structure dedicated to the production of six species of natural enemies, covering the main pests of eucalyptus. In 2023 alone, more than 285 million natural enemies were released on 370 thousand hectares in Suzano areas, an increase of 37% compared to the previous year. Furthermore, the control of defoliating caterpillars is 100% biological, using parasitoids and microorganisms. Chemical control is only carried out when the population of a given pest reaches the outbreak level, constantly seeking to adopt selective products for natural enemies, in order to reduce the population level of just the pest.

Although we have made a lot of progress in recent years, the Pest and Disease problem is dynamic, requiring constant monitoring in order to map problems in advance. Recently two new eucalyptus defoliating caterpillars were detected in Mato Grosso do Sul (Iridopsis panopla and Elasmopalpus lignoselus) and other pests such as crickets, already occur in several states, indicating that the protection of our forests requires constant care. Several technologies are in the development phase, with promising results. The adoption of these technologies, in a balanced way, is the basis for the solidity of an Integrated Pest and Disease Management program, maintaining the harmony of the ecosystem.