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Edmilson Bitti Loureiro

Suzano's R&D Manager


Pest and disease monitoring

With the synergy of different monitoring tools associated with new technologies, it is possible to contain the advances of pests and diseases, facilitating decision-making and contributing to maintaining the productivity of eucalyptus plantations.

With globalization, the expansion of the forest base in Brazil, associated with climate change, we are increasingly exposed to the attack of pests and diseases. Over the past 20 years, more than five new eucalyptus pests have been introduced into Brazilian territory. As pests do not respect borders, the entire forestry sector must be committed to control, and it is essential to adopt strategies that include field monitoring in real time, through land surveys, on-board equipment, drones , satellite, videos in observation towers, among others, to mitigate this imminent risk.

You don't manage what you don't know. Thus, forest monitoring should be used as a management tool to guarantee the productivity of plantations against pests and diseases, allowing the mapping of hotspot areas and plan biological control with the release of natural enemies.

Disease monitoring strategies:
Terrestrial monitoring of leaf-cutting ants: Because it is the main forest pest in Brazil, monitoring leaf-cutting ants has established itself as a successful case, being a pioneer in the integrated pest management strategy. Implemented more than 40 years ago to enable the application of the bait holder (container to protect the ant bait until it is consumed by the ants), monitoring has become the main tool in the management of leaf-cutting ants, ensuring optimization of resources and protection of plantations of eucalyptus, being used by most forestry companies.

Even in regions with a history of low occurrence, it is possible to have significant productivity losses caused by ant attacks, if not properly managed. Due to the history of severe damage, as the phrase from the 1930s portrays, “either Brazil ends up with the ant or the ant ends up with Brazil”, the practice of annual control is still common today. However, with the information obtained from the monitoring, it is possible to go one, two or even three years without intervening; on the other hand, an annual intervention may not be enough, requiring additional measures. In this way, it is possible to optimize resources and take more assertive control actions.

Monitoring by traps: The use of yellow sticky traps allows the detection of pests and natural enemies. When installed and collected monthly, they are a good detection tool, in addition to assisting in the mapping of hotspot areas. that can be used in pest management, prioritizing inspections and preventive controls.

Remote sensing to detect pests and diseases: With advances in satellite imaging technologies, orbital monitoring has become an important strategy to address these challenges.

The damage caused by pests and diseases present, for the most part, a single common symptom: loss of leaf area. Thus, it would be interesting to monitor the Leaf Area Index, which precisely measures the leaf density of a tree, being an important indicator of forest quality. Periodic monitoring of the Leaf Area Index in 100% of productive areas over one year old allows the detection of changes in the upper forest cover, indicating the adoption of intervention measures, such as prioritizing land surveys.

Areas with a low leaf area index must be confirmed by field validations, which can also be used to improve and calibrate the tool for different conditions and forest environments. It is worth mentioning that there is not a single rule that is automatically applicable to the entire forestry sector. In addition to orbital monitoring, the use of drones has been increasingly applied to confirm events and delimit the affected area, and can even be used in the management of pests and diseases with the application of pesticides or even in the release of natural enemies.

Frequency of inspections and Management of indicators:
We believe that a quarterly inspection is enough to detect most of the pests even in initial outbreaks, however, based on the detection and frequency of visits, the cycle of the pest and diseases, as well as the age of the plantations, must be taken into account in order to avoid significant losses and dispersal of pests and diseases.

In addition to data collection, it is necessary to create a routine for analyzing information with monitoring of indicators and management of your forest assets in relation to pests and diseases. In addition to the day-to-day decision, it is essential to look at historical data and work on the lessons learned, to avoid losses in plantation productivity.

Synergy of monitoring with the first firefighting:
The integration of forest monitoring activities with the first fight against forest fires can be a good alternative in the forest protection strategy for early detection and monitoring of outbreaks, with optimization of resources. In this way, with the same structure, the capacity to combat and carry out specific surveys related to the management of pests and diseases is increased, ensuring periodic rounds, or according to the cycle of each pest.

Cooperative programs and interface with research institutions:
As with forest fires, cooperative work must be encouraged. For pests and diseases, there are no borders, and cooperative work must be encouraged by the sector to mitigate the risk of dispersion and attack on planted forests, in an effective and structured way.

Companies also need to be up-to-date with regard to monitoring and control strategies, and it is essential to maintain partnerships with research institutions.