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July 9, 2013

New Soy Insect Pest Found in Five Municipalities in Mato Grosso

Brazilian researchers have confirmed the presence of Helocoverpa armigera, more commonly known as corn ear worm, in five municipalities in Mato Grosso. The five municipalities include Primavera do Leste and Campo Verde in southeastern Mato Grosso as well as Sapezal, Tangara da Serra, and Campos de Julio in western Mato Grosso. This insect pest is new to the state, but it caused significant crop damage to the soybean, corn and cotton crops in northeastern Brazil during the Ji2012/13 growing season.

Researchers feel it's just a matter of time before the insect is found in all the major production regions of the state in addition to other soybean producing regions of central Brazil.

The Crop Protection Service of the Minister of Agriculture is responsible for developing a plan of action to control the pest which is expected to include chemical control, biological control, natural predators, as well as the possibility of prohibiting the growing of certain crops for a period of time during the dry season to help prevent the spread of the insect from one crop season to the next. The Crop Protection Service does not want to rely too heavily on chemical control due to the possibility of the insect developing resistance to the chemicals.

A similar plan prohibiting the growing of soybeans during a 90-day period has helped to control the losses from soybean rust, which left unchecked can reduce soybean yields by as much as 80%. The 90-day soybean free period, which generally starts on June 15 and extends until September 15th, has been in place since the mid-2000's and has been deemed a significant factor in helping to control the disease. A lack of freezing temperatures in central Brazil makes it much more difficult to control the spread of insect pests from one growing season to the next.

A new soybean variety just released by Monsanto may also be instrumental in controlling losses from the insect. The new Intacta RR2 soybeans are resistant to most soybean insect pests due to the incorporation of the Bt gene which has been used successfully in corn hybrids for many years. Since China is the number one destination of Brazilian soybean exports, Monsanto held the soybeans off the market until the new technology was approved by China this past June. The company has approximately 3 million sacks of Intacta RR2 seed available for the 2013/14 growing season which is enough to plant 2,500,000 hectares or about 9% of Brazil's anticipated 2013/14 soybean acreage.