Monsanto representatives shared their integrated pest management knowledge with UPR-RUM student
Crop rotation, beneficial insects, and pheromone and sticky traps were some of the insect control methods in agriculture shared by Monsanto Caribe representatives during a talk on integrated pest management (IPM) offered to students of the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez Campus (RUM) College of Agricultural Sciences.
Carlos J. Ruiz Vargas, IPM associate, and Miguel A. Garcia, IPM research assistant at Monsanto, both RUM graduates, talked to students of the crop protection course, offered by Professor Carlos Rosario, about the role of biotechnology in the implementation of IPM at Monsanto sites here in Puerto Rico. “Integrated pest management is a strategy focused on using a variety of complementary methods to control and manage pest populations, helping protect the environment around us,” said Ruiz.
“We start by monitoring the presence of crop pests, then we make decisions about implementing cultural, ethology, biological or agrochemical controls,” explained Ruiz. According to Ruiz and Garcia, monitoring consists of field visits twice a week to measure the presence of pests in the crops.
Cultural control is based on minimizing harmful insect habitats in or around the fields. “To control harmful insects we rotate crops in the fields, set planting dates for each crop, and control weeds in the fields by cutting them down, herbicide rotation and evaluating new products, among others,” said Ruiz. On the other hand, ethological control seeks to attract and trap these insects outside the crop fields, preventing them from consuming and reproducing in them. “We use bucket and veil pheromone traps, we rotate pheromones with different active ingredients, and use sticky traps,” listed Ruiz.
In 2013, Miguel Garcia and Jorge Quinones, farm coordinator at Monsanto, locally designed a new trap to control the cotton weevil as part of IPM strategy at the Monsanto Juana Diaz site. “We noticed that the traps stopped working too quickly due to dust and dirt swept up by the wind in Juana Diaz. Therefore, we adapted this trap to address this problem,” said Garcia.
In the case of biological control, beneficial insects that attack harmful insects are used, naturally controlling the population of the latter on farms. “In corn crop fields, for example, we use capsanem, a nematode to control fall armyworms,” said Garcia. “The capsanem larva looks for and burrows within armyworm larvae. Then, it feeds on its host, releasing a bacteria in its digestive tract. The bacteria converts host tissue into products that the capsanem assimilates well. The armyworm larvae dies two to three days after application. We have observed that the use of capsanem has an 81-95 percent effectiveness in controlling armyworms.”
The experts also mentioned the importance of creating habitats for these beneficial insects through the cover landscapes and crops on farms fields. These benefit both pollinators like bees and butterflies, as well as parasitoids and predators, such as capsanem and the Trichogramma wasp.
The integrated pest management program is part of Monsanto’s efforts around the world to achieve its vision for maximum sustainable production in its Breeding operations. Through sustainable seed production, the company expects to reduce pesticide applications, as well as its overall crop production footprint and carbon emissions from reductions in soil tillage.
“At Monsanto we are committed to continue seeking and evaluating new technologies and new biological products that help us to control pests in our crops,” concluded Ruiz.