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New Three-Pronged Attack on Sugarcane Pest

By Jill Lee
July 3, 1997

Farmers can now beat the sugarcane borer with a new three-punch pest management strategy that’s murder on the bugs, but gentle on the environment.

Developed in part by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, the strategy combines use of Confirm, a narrow-range insecticide, with a natural borer enemy--the Cotesia chionlis wasp--and borer-resistant sugarcane from ARS researchers in Houma, La. Other partners in the research include Texas A&M University, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center and the chemical company Rohm and Haas, which developed Confirm.

Confirm is currently used against walnut and cotton crop pests. The Environmental Protection Agency must approve Confirm’s use in sugarcane before farmers can put it to work against the sugarcane borer. The chemical tricks pest larvae into premature molting by imitating the insect’s developmental hormones. The result: The confused pest develops a head within a head and can’t feed.

C. chionlis is a native of Japan that preys on sugarcane borers. First found by Texas A&M University scientists, it has passed all necessary reviews as a safe, effective biological control for the sugarcane borer, the chief insect pest of Louisiana sugarcane.

Cooperative research by ARS and scientists at LSU’s Agricultural Center showed that Confirm does not harm this potentially helpful wasp. Other commercially available pesticides can endanger the wasp.

Confirm is biodegradable--a bonus for sugarcane growers who are seeking pest controls that are kinder to the environment. Also, Confirm won’t harm other helpful insects that prey on minor pests such as the sugarcane aphid.

Scientific contacts: William White, ARS Southern Regional Research Center, Houma Sugarcane Research Unit, Houma, La., phone (504) 872-5042, fax 868-8369,; T. E. Reagan, Lousiana State University, Baton Rouge, La., phone (504) 388-1824; J. W. Smith, Jr., Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, phone (409) 845-9717; Doug Lisk, Rohm & Haas, Philadelphia, Pa. , phone (215) 592-2610.