May. 20, 2019
By Leonardo Gottems, reporter for AgroPages
Biologist Sérgio Abud, supervisor of the Embrapa Cerrados technology transfer area, notes that biological control is the best tool for sustainable agricultural production in an economic and environmental sense. "Based upon the experience we had with Helicoverpa armigera
, the practice has grown a lot in Brazil, and has been gaining the confidence of the producers," he points out.
He argues that researchers and companies are recognizing that agrochemical management tactics are not sustainable. As an example, he cites the case of the soybean bug (Euschistus heros) that is becoming resistant to the main insecticides, because the best application technologies can not reach the nymphs in the initial phase, which are in the lower third of the plant.
"Already in the case of biological control, if the farmer uses a Telenomus or a Trissolcus, they directly attack the pest. The integration of chemical control with biological, both conservative and applied, and more cultural control, which is the practice of making food available to pests outside the harvest period, has resulted in lower production costs and more environmentally efficient agriculture. We are going through a very good moment in agriculture, because the producer is seeing that it is not enough to use only a pest and disease control tactic, he has to 'technify' more and guarantee this sustainability, which we have been talking about for Brazilian agriculture," says Abud.
Further, according to Abud, now the job is to convince farmers to take biological control to scale. In the Brazilian state of Bahia, he says, the Helicoverpa armigera was exploding with more than 35 insecticide applications. "We explained to the producers that they would have to use a virus that would cause disease in the insects, but they doubted its effectiveness and they laughed at us. So we started to use these viruses and these bacteria, as well as egg parasitoids, the conservative management with parasites of larvae and nymphs, and also of adults, and farmers saw that the tools work," he said.
"Still, there is resistance today, but this culture is slowly being broken. We already have the adoption of biological control in the management of various pests and diseases. Biological control is being seen as an important tool for the management of soil nematodes, diseases in crops, and to preserve biological diversity in the soil. In addition, when chemicals are applied to the plant, they cause them to have an expenditure of energy to metabolize and eliminate this product. In the case of the biological, as the plant does not expend this energy, it will accumulate it in the leaves, and then it will be converted into healthier and more productive plants. Koppert has done a very good job of raising awareness of the producer, and we have also delivered many lectures showing this. I am a member of the CESB (Soja Brazil Strategic Committee) and we observed that productivity record holders are already using biological control,” he noted.
For Abud, biological control must still evolve in "monitoring the crop" to work "a step earlier, understanding and monitoring the dynamics and phases of each pest or disease. “In addition, the integration of chemical control with biological in the medium term, I think, will be a very important tactic. We had six or seven large companies in the world that worked with the production of chemicals - fungicides, insecticides and herbicides, and the cost of producing a new molecule is very high. These companies are merging and will have to keep these molecules for longer in the field. And for us to do all this, we will depend on this great tool that is biological control."
"With the advent of agriculture 4.0, where there are ways to better monitor crops, such as drones and sensors, we will be able to predict the arrival of the pest and take decisions more assertively, making the grower more confident in biological control. In addition, the world has valued an agriculture offering less damage to the environment. Countries that can certify crops with more sustainable agriculture will ensure global success. It is expected that by 2050 the world will have two billion more people, who will have to be fed with higher agricultural productivity, but also in a healthier way and in harmony with nature. In this way, biological control will be the tool of the future, as the main form of pest and disease management. If there is an invader, there is the predator in nature, it has always been like that and it will expand in the future", adds Abud, who also coordinates the "Embrapa Caravan against Phytosanitary Threats".