Experts in Pest Control
Experts in Pest Control

Coping with

Caterpillars

Coping with

Caterpillars

Caterpillar
Coping with caterpillars

A new Bayer initiative is helping Brazilian farmers cope with a recent incursion of crop-threatening caterpillars. It involves ­everything from basic monitoring and training to a networked database spanning the country’s agricultural landscape.

They are smaller than a human thumb but have a gigantic appetite. These are the caterpillars of the species Helicoverpa armigera. This insect has plagued crop fields from Africa to Asia for years but had never appeared in the Americas. “Then, in 2012, the first reports started coming in of a new species of caterpillar in the soy fields of Bahia in northeastern Brazil,” remembers Joaquim Mariano Costa, a coordinator of the COAMO Cooperative. The following year, the Brazilian Agriculture and Livestock Research Company (EMBRAPA) confirmed the intrusion, and since then, the tiny caterpillar has already caused billions in damages to Brazilian fields – and it also poses a threat to cotton and and corn crops. “This development has made integrated pest management increasingly necessary in our fields,” says Costa, who coordinates annual field days for COAMO members that also feature training to identify and combat caterpillars. Now, he and his colleagues are also receiving solutions through the Bayer Contra Lagartas (Bayer against Caterpillars)-Project.

Soy fields such as this one in southern Brazil are threatened by a host of pests.
Soy fields such as this one in southern Brazil are threatened by a host of pests.

Soy fields such as this one in southern Brazil are threatened by a host of pests. 

Monitoring for a Successful Harvest

Among the actions carried out in the project is the use of moth monitoring traps. They are designed to measure infestation levels and help provide evidence of an upcoming population explosion. “Since the presence of adults in the area is highly related to the levels of eggs, we can make pretty good assumptions of the expected impact on the crop,” explains Everson Zin, a Fungicide Product Marketing Strategy Manager at Bayer in Brazil. The traps, made of plastic or wood, are triangular in shape and also have an adhesive liner used to capture moths. Also, each trap can be baited with a pheromone that is specific to different species of caterpillars that have already caused problems in the past. This facilitates the identification of each captured individual and eases the choice of the correct crop protection product needed to control it.

Integrated pest management increasingly necessary in our fields

Joaquim Mariano Costa, COAMO Cooperative

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Joaquim Mariano Costa works for the COAMO Cooperative in southern Brazil. It organizes regular field days to inform farmers about effective pest management.

Sky-high Caterpillars

The bollworm causes an estimated five billion U.S. dollars worth of damage to Brazil’s field crops every year. This is partly due to the fact that they reproduce at such an alarming rate: A female bollworm lays some 1,500 eggs up to six times during her life. At the larva stage, the voracious creatures can measure up to four centimeters in length. If they were lined up end to end, they would be almost as tall as the Empire State Building.
Sources: Bayer Contra Lagartas, Julius Kühn Institute, Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants

According to Zin, there are now 5,200 traps spread throughout the country, with 1,300 monitoring points. The focus is on areas where there is higher caterpillar pressure, such as the states of Rio Grande do Sul, Paraná, Minas Gerais, Mato Grosso do Sul, Mato Grosso, Goiás, and Bahia. The manager says that in addition to Helicoverpa, the incidence of other caterpillar species has also been increasing in recent months. “The main objective of our actions is to create a data network that helps producers interact when making their crop protection decisions,” he says. In addition to managing their crops correctly, Bayer Contra Lagartas aims to help optimize farmers’ productivity by maximizing the efficiency of inputs and promoting good agricultural practices.

Exchange of information

The traps enable a great exchange of information between company technicians and the farmers,” summarizes Zin. To participate in the project and receive traps, farmers can register on the website at bayercontralagartas.com.br, and post information about their plantation on a weekly basis. “Our next goal is to build local and state reports on caterpillar control all over Brazil,” he says.

Everson Zin is a crop protection expert at Bayer in Brazil and helps manage invasive pests with­ innovative monitoring programs.

Our next goal is to build local and state reports on caterpillar control all over Brazil.

Everson Zin is a crop protection expert at Bayer in Brazil and helps manage invasive pests with­ innovative monitoring programs.

At first try, without a doubt

The right timing for fungicide application makes all the difference when it comes to the management of diseases in soybean crops. To achieve this perfect timing, Bayer do Brazil has initiated another project called ‘De Primeira, Sem Dúvida’ or ‘At first try, without a doubt’. The project will monitor fields in real time by means of plantation cameras placed in the five major soy regions in Brazil. Renowned researchers in plant pathology will directly monitor these video feeds and give direct feedback to the farmers. Every soybean area will be divided into two equal plots and while one of them will get the proper fungicide treatment to manage diseases like soybean rust, the other plot will serve as a control, where the application will be delayed. An additional component of the program is an algorithm that can predict the risk level of infestation. These combined monitoring efforts allow Bayer to help farmers identify the ideal moment for fungicide applications.

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