Sugarcane Stakeholders Attended “Strengthening of Integrated Pest and Disease Management in the Sugar Industry” Project Seminar

The Sugar Industry Research and Development Institute (SIRDI), the Government of Belize (GOB) and the European Union (EU) on April 12, 2017 held a first of its kind Integrated Pest and Disease Management Seminar at SIRDI’s headquarters located on Buena Vista Village, Corozal District, Belize C.A.

A total of 185 stakeholders attended our SIRDI EU IPDM Farmers Seminar. Inclusive of sugarcane farmers, sugarcane farmers associations, community leaders, students and NGOs. Many Farmers and stakeholders from the northern sugar belt are now well verse and prepare to tackle the main pest in the sugarcane field known as the froghopper.

The day’s event initiated at 9:00 a.m. with a brief welcome remark from SIRDI’s executive director Mr. Marcos Osorio fallowed by an overview of the “Strengthening of Integrated Pest and Disease Management (IPDM) in the Sugar Industry” Project by Mr. Jeffy Gomez, SIRDI EU IPDM Project Manager. Mr. Luciano Chi, SIRDI EU IPDM Project Head of Unit then proceeded to orient the stakeholders about the importance and strategies of an Integrated Pest and Disease Management Program in Crops and IPDM in Sugarcane Production. SIRDI’s extension officers Mr. Saul Vasquez, Mr. Miguel Keme, Mr. Daniel Villanueva and Mr. Jose Campos presented on the importance of Biological Control of Froghopper, Egg Sampling, Field Monitoring, Mechanical and Ethological Control. Mr. Vasni Pech, SIRDI’s GIS Technician also presented on the importance of field data and maps that can be obtained from the Sugar Industry Management Information System (SIMIS). The day’s session proceeded with field demonstration and display of an Integrated Pest and Disease Management in the Sugar Industry.

The stakeholders especially the famers enjoyed the field session. All farmers and stakeholders were divided into 4 groups which were:

1. Egg sampling for froghopper egg count
2. Sanitary harrow which could encompass trash lining, light harrow or phytosanitary harrow
3. Monitoring traps and
4. Biological and chemical control.

1. Soil Sampling for Froghopper Eggs Count
This activity is an important tool in order to direct the implementation of IPDM. This procedure indicates the amount of froghopper eggs present in the field, thus its potential population, so as to prepare for any outbreak before time. It encompasses two (2) parts: 1. Collection of samples in the field and 2. Laboratory analysis

2. First preventative action through the utilization of Sanitary Harrow
This activity is conducted just after the harvesting of the crop (2-3 weeks) and its effect in the field is to expose the eggs of the frog hopper to the direct sunlight for control, as well as to other natural predators. This exposure of the eggs to direct sunlight causes the

desiccation or dehydration and posterior destruction of the eggs, thus preventing the completion of its life cycle. Based on experience up to 50% of the eggs are destroyed through this activity, which at the end will be reflected on the lower cost of pest control.

3. The use of monitoring and control traps.
The objective of the use of plastic traps for the control of frog hopper in sugar cane is to be able to monitor nymphs and adults, as well as to provide a physical control. For monitoring, the number of traps to be placed in the field is 5 per hectare; while for control is 100 to 120 traps per hectare. The traps consist of yellow or green polyethylene bags depending on the predominant species:

– Yellow – 570 – 580 nm of wave longitude
– Green – 540 – 550 nm of wave longitude

4. Biological control with Metarhizium anisopliae and Chemical Control
The microbiological control can be defined as the utilization of pathogen microorganisms for the population management of pest in the field. This constitutes a major part of the natural control and it can also be manipulated through the introduction of foreign microorganism to the ecosystem. They coexists inside the same pest habitat, and are capable of causing them damage or death and has been converted into a major tool in the management of various agriculture pests. Some of the microorganisms used for the management of pests are bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoan etc. Close to 80% of the diseases that affects insect pests are due to fungus, existing over 90 genus and 700 species.

The biological control of frog hopper in sugar cane constitutes the pillar of an IPDM program. This entomopathogenic fungi is applied in the field as soon as the first rains falls since they will provide the adequate temperature for increase in population. This fungus is capable of causing a disease to the insect making it more vulnerable since it will not be feeding and later die.

When the fungus is applied it takes approximately 2 to 3 days to cause an effect to the insects. It is always recommended to apply it during the late hours of the day since the sun can cause dehydration and kill the fungus.

IPDM is a holistic approach to sustainable agriculture that focuses on managing insects, weeds and disease through a combination of culturing and chemical measure that are cost effective, environmentally sound and sociably acceptable. Which consist of 3 stages which are PREVENTION, MONITORING and INTERVENSION. At the prevention stage farmers must understand the ecological conditions, select varieties appropriately and manage their crops. At the monitoring stage farmers must inspect field, identify issues and determine action. Farmers must be aware that both prevention and monitoring works vice versa and complement each other. At the Intervention stage we want to avoid the use of chemicals that are harmful to human beings and the environment. Hence farmers must choose method wisely in this case Metarhizium.

The Sugar Industry Research and Development Institute (SIRDI) and the European Union (EU) have entered into an 18 month agreement for the provision of Strengthening Integrated Pest and Disease Management (IPDM) in the Sugar Industry.

The Project Objective is to enable SIRDI to build capacity in the areas of IPDM research and development, while ensuring its sustainability through the provision of technical services.

The Specific Objective Strengthening of Integrated Pest and Disease Management (IPDM) in the Sugar Industry

1. Effective IPDM unit established with human resources, laboratory facilities and service provision with an early warning system serving the northern sugar belt.
2. Capacity of sugar cane farmers, associations and SIRDI strengthened on best practices in IPDM.
3. Field demonstration plots established to validate agronomic techniques in IPDM for participating cane farmers

The IPDM laboratory will be a first ever Entomology and Pathology laboratory facility with the require equipment and supplies in Belize, with its main purpose being the production of biological control agents which is a critical component of the IPDM system. The lab will use an approach that carefully and intelligently selects and uses pest controls actions which will ensure favorable economic, ecological and sociological consequences. The main activities of the lab will include collect, isolate and multiply indigenous strain of entomopathogenic fungus Metarhizium present in the Belize eco-system. The various formulation of Metarhizium bio-pesticide will be accessible to farmers in the sugar industry at a low cost.

Special thanks to SIRDI and the IPDM unit staff for making the SIRDI EU IPDM Farmers Seminar a success.

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