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Louisiana and Texas Cooperate to Prevent Spread of Mexican Rice Borer

By Jim De Quattro
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 USDA’s chief research agency.

Scientific contact: William White, Sugarcane Research Unit, ARS Southern Regional Research Center, New Orleans, La., phone (504) 853-3176 ext. 176, fax (504) 868-8369, wwhite@nola.srrc.usda.gov.

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