Chile: New project to control the painted bug, which affects vegetables

INIA researchers have proposed an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) system to mitigate the populations of the painted bug (Bagrada hilaris), a pest that affects the cultivation of vegetables.

To this end, the entire work team met to take the first steps in the programming of the project's activities during the year.

The initiative, "Development of an integrated management system with low environmental impact aimed at mitigating the populations of the painted bug (Bagrada hilaris) for a sustainable and competitive horticulture," is being funded by the Foundation for Agrarian Innovation (FIA), an entity that seeks to improve the competitiveness of producers of brassicas from the Metropolitan and Valparaiso regions in a sustainable manner, which are faced with the presence of a new plague in Chile that has generated an indiscriminate use of insecticides.

The initiative has a duration of 3 years (2018-2021) and it's goal is to generate information based on the pest's biological and ecological aspects to reduce its populations through ecological and economically viable alternatives. 

The team is made up by Nancy Vitta, Patricia Estay, Natalia Olivares, Ernesto Cisternas, Fernando Rodriguez, Eduardo Tapia and Jose Lagos, who will have the support of field and laboratory technicians.

One of the mitigation strategies proposed in this project is the use of native strains of entomopathogenic fungi (HEP) from the microbial resource bank of INIA. Another agro-ecological strategy proposed is the planting of trap crops, which consists of planting species that the pest finds more attractive on the edges or inside the main crop. 

"There are variable climatic conditions that can favor the spread of this pest to other regions and that is why it is important to address this pest through appropriate mitigation management strategies," stated agronomist Nancy Vitta, the director of the project. The joint work with producers is fundamental, she added. "It is very important for producers to learn about biology, its behavior and the principles of Integrated Pest Management." 

The schedule establishes a work plan with farmers and entities that are associated to the project and that are interested and committed to solving this problem, which is key to adequately manage and control the pest.
The Lampa hilaris Farmers Association from Lampa, the Organic Agriculture Technological Transfer Group (GTT), the Leaf Vegetables GTT of the same locality, the team from Prodesal and other producers are participating in the initiative.

Patricia Estay, the national coordinator of plant health of the INIA, said "it's necessary to start an intense research program of the painted bug and to understand aspects, such as the B. hilaris' seasonal life history in Chile in crops and weeds. We need to identify the presence and impact of its local natural enemies, including predators, parasitoids and pathogens. We have to understand the distribution and presence of weeds, in particularly of those in the brassica crops that are important for the pest's seasonal biology."

The commitment of the entire team is essential to successfully manage this project, stated Nancy Vitta. "Everyone is important; from producers to the INIA and INDAP technicians, researchers, regulatory entities (SAG) and funding agencies, such as FIA and the Ministry of Agriculture." 

“Both INIA La Cruz and INIA La Platina have an area of ​​specialized entomologists with vast experience that, in addition to the transfer and extension teams, will make a very good team to carry out this initiative through management strategies and technologies that are sustainable," she added.

The painted bug was detected in Chile in September 2016. The producers of brassicas in the town of Lampa and other sectors suffered serious losses due to the damage caused by this plague.

According to data from INIA, in Lampa, preliminary evaluations established that 65% of a total of 54 hectares destined to the production of several species of brassicas for fresh consumption were seriously affected by the presence of the pest during 2016. In Curacavi, nearly 10% of the crops were lost to the plague and in the region of Valparaiso 21.3 hectares of crops were affected by it.

Chile's brassica production is of great social and economic relevance, as it is mostly developed by medium and small farmers. The country has an approximate area of ​​4 thousand hectares devoted to the production of brassicas. The biggest productions, in area, are of cabbage (1,598 ha), cauliflower (1,230 ha) and broccoli (1,046 ha). The regions that concentrate the most surface of brassicas are Coquimbo, Valparaiso, Metropolitana, Libertador Bernardo O'Higgins, and Maule.

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