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Eloá Cabrera Machado Mendes

Forestry Coordinator at RIV-Koppert


Macrobiologicals: a new ally in the control of eucalyptus defoliator caterpillars

There is a strong worldwide demand for sustainable agriculture, with biological control being a very important link in this chain. The use of biological agents to control agricultural pests has been increasing around 15% a year worldwide, and in Brazil these values are even higher, growing close to 30% a year. The results pay off with a significant reduction in production costs, increased productivity and operational ease, in addition to all the socio-environmental benefits.

Effectively, it was the safe conduct in prolonging the useful life of the vast majority of chemical molecules and maintaining beneficial organisms in the production areas. In the Integrated Pest Management system, both chemical and biological agents, genetic characteristics of the pest and host, resistance, behavioral and environmental aspects, application technology, among other factors, are used as tools in pest management and control. The more information, the better the decision making and the better the result. The key to success lies in monitoring, which defines the correct time to apply each technology, according to the stage of the crop and the pest.

Without monitoring and availability of information quickly and assertively, there is no Integrated Pest Management . It was with this in mind that we carried out a “mega-operation” last year (2021) to control eucalyptus defoliating caterpillars. There was massive attack and defoliation in more than 1 million hectares of planted forests, in Mato Grosso do Sul alone. They were identified as possibly belonging to the species Iridopsis panopla, which was, until then, an unknown pest in eucalyptus plantations.

There was no time to lose. We collect eggs, moths and caterpillars in the field and send everything to our Research and Development laboratory, based at Koppert, in Piracicaba, where the main specialists in biological control in the world gather. Based on the work and knowledge of professors José Roberto Postali Parra from the Luiz de Queiroz School of Agriculture in Piracicaba, Fabrício Fagundes Pereira from the Federal University of Grande Dourados in Dourados, Carlos Frederico Wilcken from the Universidade Estadual Paulista in Botucatu, among other researchers, are here recorded our thanks.

There was very positive feedback from our laboratory on the parasitism of eggs of the Iridopsis species by Trichogramma pretiosum, a fact of great importance, since the parasitism of the species Trichogramma causes a drastic reduction in caterpillar hatching and pest pressure in the field. The Trichogramma pretiosum is a microwasp, and its females locate the host's eggs in the field and, in them, deposit their eggs, interrupting the development of the pest right at the beginning of its cycle, making them dark in color, giving rise to new wasps, instead of of caterpillars. This process takes 7 to 12 days, depending on the temperature of the environment.

Without the caterpillars, no damage occurs, as eggs and moths alone do not directly reduce leaf area, and, most importantly, the pest does not complete its cycle. A successful solution highly used in the sugarcane culture for the control of the borer, Diatraea saccharalis: annually, more than 1.5 million hectares of the crop are treated with this technology.

It takes advantage of knowledge in the areas of sugarcane and the services provided with drones specially adapted for the application of macropasitoids in large areas by Natutec, a company that operates in the segment of application via drone in Latin America. Trichogrammas were inoculated pretiosum in more than 100,000 hectares of planted forests, in four months of operation, incorporating this important tool into the Integrated Pest Management of forestry companies. The results could be reflected in this year (2022), when the occurrence of the pest and its damage were minimal.