Louisiana and Texas Cooperate to Prevent
Spread of Mexican Rice Borer
By Jim De
September 1, 1999
Scientists with the
Agricultural Research Service and
Louisiana State University
Agricultural Center are working with scientists in Texas to prevent Mexican
rice borers from spreading to Louisiana. Traps to detect rice borer moths have
been placed in the Beaumont, Texas, area and selected Louisiana locations.
The rice borer, Eoreuma loftini, is native to Mexico and was first
detected in south Texas in 1980. It costs sugarcane growers in the Lower Rio
Grande Valley of Texas about $10 million to $20 million a year in lost yields.
The pest also attacks rice, sorghum, wheat and forage grasses.
The borer is now a concern in Louisiana because of a new sugarcane
plantation in Beaumont, Texas. Sugarcane from the area will be sent by rail to
Louisiana for grinding, but scientists hope to intercept the moths before the
cane is shipped.
Young rice borer larvae feed on and in leaf sheaths. They also bore into
stalks, which sometimes break. As the insect bores through the cane, it becomes
packed with feeding debris and excrement. This helps shield the larva from
chemical and biological controls. The adult, about the size of a horsefly,
escapes to mate.
The traps will release a synthetic version of the female rice borer's
natural sex attractant, or pheromone. This gaseous compound, developed by ARS
scientists, will lure male moths into the traps. If scientists find moths in
the traps, they will determine the extent of the invasion. Finding any moths
could lead to an automatic suspension of Beaumont sugarcane shipments to
Louisiana. Scientists hope cultural controls and natural predators will prevent
further expansion of the insect.
Michael Way of Texas A&M University
and Texas Department of
Agriculture officials have placed traps in Jefferson, Chambers and Liberty
counties in Texas. William White with ARS' Sugarcane Research Unit in New
Orleans and T.E. Regan of Louisiana State
University will set traps in Louisiana and supervise the program. ARS is
the USDAs chief research agency.
Scientific contact: William White,
Unit, ARS Southern Regional Research
Center, New Orleans, La., phone (504) 853-3176 ext. 176, fax (504)