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Spain: Agronomist tests effectiveness of biological insecticide in banana trees

In a PhD thesis, defended at the Public University of Navarre (UPNA), agronomist Ernesto Gabriel Fuentes Barrera (Santa Cruz de Tenerife, 1982) has proved the effectiveness of a new biological insecticide against Chrysodeixis chalcites, which causes damage to banana trees in the Canary Islands.

It contains a virus (ChchNPV) which is just as effective as traditional insecticides and remains for longer than these in the plant, reported the UPNA in a statement.

First, Fuentes analysed the extent to which banana trees are infested by these larvae and the damage they can cause to both the leaf and the fruit.

In total, some 3,155 tonnes of bananas are lost per year, which is 1.5% of the annual production; about 2.68 million Euro, explains the agronomist.

Moreover, the cost of the most common insecticide to control the pest amounts to about 240 Euro per hectare per crop cycle.

Currently, the pest is kept under control by means of a small number of products, which facilitates the appearance of resistances and, therefore, diminishes their effectiveness.

Therefore, the researcher believes that there is a need for new insecticides and for the implementation of an effective integrated pest management program in banana plantations in the Canary Islands.

In order to evaluate the potential use of the virus as a new biological control agent, Fuentes carried out several small-scale trials both in greenhouse conditions and in the open ground with the most abundant and widespread variant of the virus (ChchNPV-TF1).

In this way, it was possible to reduce the number of larvae and the damage to the leaves in young banana plants with the same effectiveness as with conventional products.

Moreover, the virus caused greater larvae mortality over time, compared to the brief period achieved with traditional insecticides, which points to a greater persistence of this virus in the banana tree.

After the small-scale trials, which lasted for two years, Fuentes carried out field trials in mesh greenhouses in commercial plantations of Tenerife, Gran Canaria and La Palma.

When the virus treatments were applied several months before the development of the fruit, the biological insecticide proved again to be effective, with similar results to those achieved with conventional insecticides. It could consequently be used for the integrated management of pest.

Fuentes is an agronomist from the University of La Laguna and has a Masters in Agro-biotechnology from the UPNA. His research during the development of his doctoral thesis has been featured in seven publications and has led him to participate in the 9th National Congress of Applied Entomology of Valencia.


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