plant health

Integrated management of sugarcane pests with emphasis on biological control


It is estimated that there are more than 1300 species of insects associated with the cultivation of sugar cane as their food source (Box, 1953). However, not all of them are pests of economic importance for the crop; In fact, and depending on regional conditions, only between one and three species present themselves as a serious limitation to production. In this regard, Bustillo (2013) mentions that 23 species of pest insects have been detected in sugar cane plantations in Colombia, and highlights that among them are stem borers. Diatraea spp. (Lepidoptera: Crambidae) and the spittlebug Aeneolamia varies (Fabricius) (Hemiptera: Cercopidae) are the pests of greatest economic importance in the crops of the Cauca River Valley, without ignoring that other insects can, occasionally, cause considerable losses in them, such as the goat worm, Caligo illioneus Butler (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae), the crazy ant, Nylanderia fulva (Mayr) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), and others that potentially become established as pests of economic relevance in sugarcane plantations, such as spittlebug mahanarva bipars (Walker) (Hemiptera: Cercopidae), seed weevils Rynchophorus palmarum (L.) and Metamasius hemipterus (Linnaeus) (Coleoptera: Dryophthoridae), the winter wren Podischnus agenor (Olivier) (Coleoptera: Melolonthidae), and even the giant borer telchin licus (Drury) (Lepidoptera: Castniidae), which has been reported in other parts of the country and could invade the Cauca River valley region.  

In Cenicaña, sugarcane varieties are not selected for their resistance to the pests that attack it, but various alternatives have been investigated and proposed to regulate the populations of these insects, with emphasis on biological control. Priority, among these activities, the various varieties are permanently evaluated with respect to their resistance to attack by Diatraea spp. (Echeverri-Rubiano et al., 2018) and spittlebug (Cuarán et al., 2012), and the response of commercial and promising varieties to the different insects associated with the crop is permanently monitored, to provide timely and effective care. any outbreak that represents significant losses to the sector. In addition, work is being done on a methodology for evaluating damage due to Diatraea under greenhouse conditions in the new varieties, to more precisely characterize their level of resistance to borers and identify resistance factors to these and other pests, which can guide breeders in their crossing processes and search for new varieties ( Echeverri-Rubiano et al., 2019; Echeverri-Rubiano et al., 2017).  


The permanent work carried out by the Center to disseminate its findings in this regard, and the constant training of farmers to raise awareness about the importance of carrying out timely sampling and control of the different pests will ensure that these do not threaten the sustainability of the crop. industry in the medium and long term. In that same direction, this chapter contains information on a selected group of crop pests, with emphasis on stem borers and spittlebugs. It also includes relevant information about seed weevils, the crazy ant, defoliators, the winter wren and giant borer. In each case, aspects such as economic importance, monitoring alternatives and control methods are analyzed. 


About the authors

Vargas Orozco, GA

Agricultural Engineer from the National University of Colombia with a doctorate in Entomology from Kansas State University in the United States. He was linked to the Colombian Sugarcane Research Center, Cenicaña, as coordinator of the Entomology area between 2012 and 2021, where he worked on the biological control of stem borers. Diatraea spp., the implementation of management alternatives for sugarcane spittlebugs, especially Aeneolamia varies and in general the integrated management of insects associated with the crop. He is currently attached as a temporary researcher in the Tropical Research and Education Center from the University of Florida, United States, in a project associated with the biological control of the hibiscus weevil, an exotic pest that affects the ornamental industry in the southern part of the state of Florida. To date it has a total of 60 publications that include a book chapter, 26 scientific articles in national and international magazines, 20 informative documents and 13 reports at scientific conferences. He is currently president of the Neotropical Section of the Organization for the Biological Control of Noxious Plants and Animals (IOBC-NTRS) for the period 2023-2027.

Echeverri Rubiano, C.

Biologist from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Bogotá campus, with a master's degree in Agricultural Sciences in the field of crop protection from the National University of Colombia, Palmira campus. She was a research assistant at the National Coffee Research Center (Cenicafé) and since 2016 she has been linked to the Colombian Sugarcane Research Center (Cenicaña) as a professional supporting research in the area of ​​Entomology focused on integrated management. of insects associated with the crop. During the work she has developed and improved the breeding processes of stem borers Diatraea spp. and its parasitoids (Trichogramma y cotesia). On the other hand, it works together with the genetic improvement area with the objective of characterizing the resistance of sugarcane varieties against Diatraea. He has documented his research in scientific articles and has disseminated his knowledge at conferences or training sessions for staff at mills, universities, external institutions or biological control companies. She is secretary of the board of the Colombian Society of Entomology (Socolen) for the period 2022-2024.

Aya Vargas, VM

Biologist from the Universidad del Valle, linked to Cenicaña since 2016 where she carried out her professional internship in the area of ​​Entomology, identifying the parasitoid at a molecular level C. flavipes distributed in the Cauca River valley. Later, in his graduate work he studied the life cycle of the tachinid parasitoids on the four species of the sugarcane stem borer (Diatraea spp.). In 2017, she joined Cenicaña as a researcher, working on morphological and molecular identification of pests of importance to the industry. Currently, she works in molecular taxonomy and microbiology with special interest in studying the endophytic potential of entomopathogenic fungi, as an alternative for the control of insect pests and diseases in sugarcane.

Ramírez Sánchez, GD

Agricultural engineer, graduated from the National University of Colombia, Palmira campus. He is linked to the Colombian Sugarcane Research Center Cenicaña, since 2009 in the area of ​​entomology; initially carrying out research exclusively on the subject of salivazo Aeneolamia varies and since 2012 supporting mills and farmers in integrated pest management processes, with a focus on the development of pest monitoring strategies, implementation of biological controllers, use of biological alternatives (fungi and entomopathogenic nematodes), as well as validation of chemical synthesis insecticide products as a shock measure in required situations and finally evaluation of cultural practices as a preventive mechanism that prevents the establishment and controls pests. He is co-author of several scientific articles on the aforementioned topics and also related to biology and taxonomy of emerging pests. Currently a master's student in crop protection.

Pabón Valverde, AH

Agricultural engineer from the National University of Colombia-Palmira headquarters, master's degree in Entomology and doctorate in Sciences from the Federal University of Viçosa, Brazil. His career in research entities such as Cenicaña, CIAT and RIDESA (University Network for the Development of the Sugar Energy Industry, Brazil) has allowed him to specialize in the development of alternatives for integrated pest management in extensive crops, with emphasis on sugar cane. and brachiaria grasses. University professor and author of scientific articles and popular articles, he is currently head of agronomy at Bioenergy, where he has the mission of developing productive and sustainable alternatives for the establishment and growth of the sugar cane agroindustry in the Colombian highland region. .

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