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July 30, 2013

New Insect Pest in Brazil has Potential for Significant Damage

Brazilian scientists, government officials, and farmers are joining forces to combat a new insect pest that has the potential to do significant harm to Brazilian crops during the 2013/14 growing season. The insect is a leaf-eating worm from the Helicoverpa amigera species or more commonly known as the corn ear worm or cotton boll worm. The worm caused significant losses to the soybean, cotton, and corn crops in western Bahia during the 2012/13 growing season.

The worm is a common problem in many areas of the world, but it was not found in Brazil until December of last year. In December of 2012, producers in western Bahia, which is located in northeastern Brazil, notified Embrapa scientists that were having problems controlling a leaf-eating worm by traditional methods. The chemicals they were using did not seem to work in controlling the new worm.

The first thing scientists did was to conduct a series of studies to positively identify the new pest. Once it was determined to be the H. amigera species, it was actually too late in the growing season to recommend the correct chemical controls because no chemicals in Brazil were registered to control the worm. Since then, Embrapa has been conducting emergency research to identify the best control methods.

Scientists are uncertain if they will ever be able to identify how the insect suddenly appeared in northeastern Brazil, but they feel the insect could be a significant problem for producers going forward. The warm tropical climate of central Brazil will allow the insect to reproduce year-round and it has already been identified in most of the states of central Brazil. The worm has the potential to cause significant harm to cotton, soybean, and corn production as well as increasing the cost of production for these crops.

A seminar is being held today, July 30th, in the city of Luiz Eduardo Magalhaes in western Bahia to inform producers what is being done to combat this new pest as well as the boll weevil and the white fly. The seminar is being sponsored by Embrapa, the Minister of Agriculture, the Association of Cotton Producers in Bahia (Abapa), the Brazilian Cotton Producers Association (Abrapa), the Brazilian Cotton Institute (IBA), and the Bahia Irrigators Association (Aiba).