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April 13, 2015

White Flies becoming a Problem for Soybean Producers in Bahia

Soybean producers in western Bahia are harvesting their best soybean crop in three years thanks to good weather during most of the growing season. The soybean yields in western Bahia are expected to average approximately 50 sacks per hectare (3,000 kg/ha or 43.3 bu/ac) compared to an average of 40 sacks per hectare over the last three years (2,400 kg/ha or 35 bu/ac). Prolonged periods of dry weather was the problem for the last several years, but after a dry start this growing season, the rainfall ended up being good for the remainder of the season.

Yields could have been even better were it not for an increase in the population of white flies that impacted not only soybeans, but also the corn and cotton crops in the region. These tiny insects have joined the ranks of the corn earworm and the soybean looper as major pests for soybean producers in western Bahia.

Scientists from Embrapa emphasize that an integrated pest management approach is the best way to limit the damage from these insects which are estimated to have cost producers 3 sacks per hectare this growing season (2.5 bu/ac). As an illustration of this successful approach to insect management, they point to the recent success in controlling the corn earworm.

Contrary to its name, the corn earworm (Helicoverpa armigera) eats a lot of different crops including soybeans and cotton, not just corn. When the insect was first discovered in western Bahia in 2012/13, it was estimated that it resulted in an average loss of 8 sacks per hectare in soybean yields (7 bu/ac). After the introduction of integrated pest management practices to control the insect, the losses from the pest this growing season was reduced to just an estimated 2 sacks per hectare or 1.8 bushels.

Scientists feel that farmers could achieve the same level of success in controlling white flies if everyone would adopt integrated pest management practices. Over the last 12 years, the cost of pest control has increased at a faster pace than other costs of production for soybean farmers in western Bahia.