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Cornell Community Biological Control Conference

Successful Biocontrol Projects
With Emphasis on the Neotropics

L. Smith & A. C. Bellotti
CIAT, A. A. 6713
Cali, Colombia

Introduction

Although biological control in the tropics has experienced a long and successful history, relatively little information is available in the international scientific literature (Haines 1984, Altieri et al. 1989, Melo 1990, Greathead 1991, Rosen et al. 1993). The tropics present an important region for the application of biological control. Continuous and overlapping crop cycles may encourage rapid selection for pest strains that can withstand pesticides or resistant plants. Such conditions have also been considered to be "ideal" for the use of biological control because of higher biodiversity and less interruption of populations by changing seasons (Huffaker et al. 1976). The low cost of labor and high cost of imported synthetic pesticides also favors the development of augmentative biological control.

Altieri (1989) reviewed biological control in the Neotropics (including citations between 1961-1983). He identified 163 cases of biological control, in 18 countries, that reported establishment or some degree of success. Most of these cases were in citrus (42%), other fruits (16%), sugarcane (14%), and cotton (6%). The countries with the most cases were Mexico, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Guayana, and Colombia. The most frequently used taxa of natural enemies were parasitic Hymenoptera (75%), Coleoptera (14%) and Diptera (7%). It is notable that few entomopathogens were used (1.6%). Melo's (1990) review of biological control activity in Brazil covers cases from 1921 to 1982. In Brazil, the success of the exotic parasitoid Neodusmetia sangwani  to control the grass-infesting scale Antonina gaminis  in 1967 stimulated a rapid increase in biological control activity. Melo's review lists 62 species of parasitoids, 40 predators and 23 pathogens. More recently, it appears that there has been much more activity with entomophatogens throughout Latin America; however, the recent literature has not been thoroughly reviewed.

In this paper we present several examples that illustrate the range of biological control activities being conducted for control of crop insect pests in the tropics. A large body of "grey literature" exists on biological control in the Neotropics alone, and this paper is far from a comprehensive review.

Cotton in Colombia

From 1965 to 1975 up to 80% of insecticide sales in Colombia were for control of cotton pests (Bellotti et al. 1990). One of the principal pests, the cotton bollworm Heliothis virescens,  had developed resistance to all available pesticides by 1977, and increasing use of methyl parathion failed to prevent increasing yield losses (Fig. 1, below). By 1978 average yield had fallen from 1,500 to 1,000 kg/ha, and the area cultivated decreased from 380,000 ha in 1977 to 80,000 ha in 1978. In 1979 the national agricultural research institute (ICA) and cotton growers federation (Federalgodón) began to promote an integrated pest management program. The Heliothis IPM program primarily relied on releases of Trichogramma,  scouting for pests and beneficials, and the use of action thresholds to reduce the number of applications of insecticides. Synchronization of planting dates and destruction of plants after harvest is particularly effective against Pectinophora gossypiella,  Sacadodes pyralis  and Anthonomus grandis  (García 1995). Consequently the number of applications decreased from 22 to 2 per crop cycle. Estimated pest control costs decreased 96% from 200,000 to 7,000 pesos/ha (García 1994).

Mass rearing techniques for Trichogramma  were first introduced from Peru in the 1960s. Now more than 30 laboratories are licensed to produce and distribute Trichogramma  in Colombia (Siabatto, et al. 1993). The native species Trichogramma pretiosum  is released weekly in cotton starting at the first detection of Heliothis eggs (but no sooner than 30 days after planting) at the rate of 20-30 "pulgadas" (a square inch of Sitotroga  eggs containing about 2,500 parasites) per ha (García 1995). Trichogramma  spp. also attack other Heliothis  species, the cotton leafworm Alabama argillacea,  and the pink Colombian bollworm Sacadodes pyralis,  which are also important lepidopteran pests of cotton. The native parasitoid, Apanteles thurberiae,  was reared and released to reestablish natural control of S. pyralis. Trichoplusia ni  was successfully controled by the importation of a nuclear polyhedrosis virus (NPV) from California in 1970, which persisted in the field functioning as a classical biological control agent. However another NPV introduced from Illinois (Viron-H) was unstable under field conditions and failed to control Heliothis  spp. Bacillus thuringiensis  (Bt) (applied at 800-1,000 g/ha) is used to control occasional outbreaks (when defoliation exceeds 30%) of A. argillacea  (García 1995).

The cotton aphid Aphis gossypii  Glover lost importance when its natural control agents, primarily Hippodamia convergens, Cycloneda sanguinea, Scymnus  sp., Chrysopa  sp., Orius insularis,  syrphids, and the parasitoid Lysiphlebus testaceipes,  became reestablished (García 1995). Hippodamia convergens  had been imported from Peru in the 1960s and was considered effective in the Cauca valley, but failed to establish in Tolima (Siabatto, et al. 1993).

The cotton IPM strategy was very successful until the arrival of the boll weevil Anthonomus grandis  in the 1980s. Both the boll weevil and Spodoptera  spp. have caused an increase in the use of insecticides, which disrupts natural and inundative biological control of the other pests. Currently, emphasis in research has been to develop and apply technologies compatible with biological control of the other pests. The parasitoid Catolaccus grandis,  introduced from Texas, was released in heavily infested experimental plots (5,000 adults per 2,000 m2), but caused no more than 14% parasitism (Garí’a & Sánchez 1995). Bracon kirkpatricki,  which originated in East Africa, was introduced from Mexico to control the boll weevil and pink bollworm (Siabatto, et al. 1993). Pheromones are also being used successfully to trap or poison bollweevils (grandlure) and disrupt mating of P. gossypiella  (gossyplure) (Alvarez 1995, Lobatón 1995).

Spodoptera  spp. are serious pests in rice and maize as well as cotton. Telenomus remus,  which originated in Malaysia and New Guinea, was introduced to the Caribbean and South America in the 1970s. In 1993 Federalgodón began to mass-rear and release the parasitoid. Experimental releases in 1994 in commercial plots of rice, maize, cotton, soy and sorghum were successful enough to eliminate the use of insecticides in all but 3% of the 2,024 ha treated (Siabatto 1995). Telenomu s sp., Trichogramma atopovirilia,  and T. exiguum  also appear to be promising (Agredo et al. 1995, García & Rojas 1995). Also tests of Meteorus laphygmae, Chelonus insularis, Telenomus remus  (50-80% psm), and Bt kurstaki  and other strains.

Sugarcane in Colombia

Sugarcane is the second most valuable crop in Colombia (value is 18% of all crops; Ocampo 1993; ). More than half the surface area of the Cauca valley is planted to sugarcane (64,000 ha). The constant environment (25lC monthly mean temperature) permits continuous production throughout the year. This continuous monoculture production is currently maintained with almost no use of pesticides other than herbicides used during planting (Gaviria 1993).

The sugarcane borer, Diatraea saccharalis,  has long been the principal pest in sugarcane. Annual losses due to sugarcane borer in the Cauca Valley alone were estimated at 53.4 million pesos (Naranjo 1965). The first use of biological control in sugarcane in Colombia was the introduction of Trichogramma minutum  in 1939 from the USA for mass-release against Diatraea  spp. in the department of Bolivar (Gaviria 1993). In 1960 a sugar mill in the Cauca Valley started mass-rearing indigenousTrichogramma pretiosum. 

In the 1970s eight insectaries were established at sugar mills in the Cauca Valley to mass-rear parasitoids and predators. Eleven species of parasitoids were introduced to Colombia from USA, Trinidad, Brazil, Ecuador and India, principally by the sugarmill, Riopaila S. A. (Gaviria 1993). The tachinid Lixophaga diatraeae  was introduced from Trinidad in the 1970s, but failed to become established in any of the Colombian sugarcane regions despite many releases.

Metagonistylum minense  (Tachinidae) was introduced from Piracicaba, Brazil, in 1970. It was released repeatedly, and by 1984 parasitism rates of 46% were observed in the northern Cauca Valley, 10 to 20% in the south, and less than 8% in the center. The differences in effectiveness are probably due to climatic differences and the differences in the Diatraea  complex. The tachinid Paratheresia claripalpis  is indigenous to the Cauca Valley, but introduction of a Peruvian strain in 1970, which had a shorter development time, raised the rate of parasitism from the previous level of less than 10% up to 20 to 57%. However, Jaynesleskia jaynesi  (Tachinidae), which is native to Colombia, maintains levels of parasitism of 10 to 70%, which is often higher than that caused by the introduced species. Combined parasitism by these three tachinids ranges from 20 to 90%.

An interesting phenomenon being observed in the Cauca Valley is the shift in the relative abundance of Diatraea  species. In 1965, D. indigenella  represented a very small proportion of the Diatraea  species complex, but it became the predominant species in the 1980s (Fig. 2, Gaviria 1993). The decline in relative abundance of D. saccharalis  may have been caused by the selectivity of the three common tachinid parasitoids, which prefer D. saccharalis  (Fig. 3; Gómez 1995). Recent increases in the population of D. indigenella  in the southern Cauca Valley are raising concern that parasitoids better adapted to this species need to be found.

Cotesia flavipes,  a braconid originally from Japan, had been very successful in several other countries in the Americas. Despite the introduction of several different geographic strains and repeated mass releases during the 1970s and 1980s, few parasitoid cocoons were found in surveys, and it is not considered to be permanently established in the Cauca Valley. However, it became established and is very effective in the department of Santander, where average parasitism is 38% (Gómez 1995).

Trichogramma  spp. are the natural enemies that have been augmentatively released the most in sugarcane. Millions were released during the 1970s and 1980s. However, these releases were made despite the lack of evidence that they were directly effective. Diatrea  damage in commercial lots where up to 200,000 Trichogramma  were released per ha per month did not differ from that in check lots with no releases (Gómez 1995). The majority of parasitoids reared from field samples were T. exiguum,  whereas T. pretiosum  was the species released. In laboratory experiments T. pretiosum  preferred the host Sitotroga cerealella,  which is used for mass-production, whereas T. exiguum  preferred D. indigenella.  Neither parasitoid species preferred D. saccharalis.  Furthermore, parasitized S. cereallela  eggs used for releasing Trichogramm  are heavily attacked by ants. Thus it appears that releasing Trichogramma  has no direct impact on the pest, and it is no longer recommended.

Nevertheless, the biological control campaign that began in 1970 was very effective in reducing sugarcane borer damage (Fig. 4). Damage has been continuously below economic thresholds at most sugar mills since 1980. The mass-rearing and release of millions of Trichogramma  over 16 years was evidently effective only as a placebo. That is, it prevented the application of insecticides, which permitted natural biological control to occur. Augmentative releases of the tachinids has raised parasitism levels, and tachinids are continuing to be released once per harvest cycle at the rate of 24 adults (combined sexes) per ha. Cotesia flavipes  is also being released at 1,000 wasps per ha in regions where it is considered effective.

The yellow aphid Sipha flav a is generally a minor pest, which is managed by natural biological control (coccinellids, chrysopids, syrphids, and spiders) and irrigation. However, there was an outbreak of aphids around 1988 requiring chemical control. No parasitoids of the yellow aphid are known. Thus, the research strategy has been to develop scouting methods and action thresholds and to evaluate insecticides for selectivity (Gómez 1995). Pirimicarb and malathion are currently being used for periodic chemical control.

Coffee in Colombia

Coffee is the most valuable crop in Colombia (value is 20% of all crops; Ocampo 1993). The coffee berry borer, Hypothenemus hampei  (Scolytidae), is an exotic pest originally from Africa that entered Brazil in 1923 and reached Colombia in 1988 (Camargo 1994). Although the coffee berry borer is globally distributed, it is especially difficult to control in Colombia. Flowering and harvest of beans occurs throughout most of the year in Colombia, whereas elsewhere it is much more seasonal. The continual development of fruit defeats the usual cultural control strategy of removing all the fruit during harvest to interrupt the pest's life cycle. Losses in Colombia of 8 to 10% are common, and infestation reduces the quality of the crop, which greatly affects price (Jones 1995). In 1995, in the town of Palestina where 95% of the growers applied insecticide, none of them produced beans meeting the coffee federation standard (Tipo Federación). The threat of resistance to insecticides and the desire to foster natural biological control and avoid environmental contamination have motivated the National Coffee Federation to support research in biological control. The national government (Cenicafé) built a laboratory specifically to study and mass-produce biological control agents.

Prorops nasut a (Bethylidae), Cephalonomia stephanoderis  (Bethylidae), and Heterospilus coffeicola  (Braconidae) are known to parasitize the coffee berry borer in Africa (Bustillo 1995). However, only the former two species are relatively easy to rear. Both these exotic species are now established in Colombia; however, augmentative releases are needed to sustain the level of control. Releases at the rate of five C. stephanoderis  per infested fruit provides parasitism of 20% or more and reduces infestation down to 0 to 2% (Baker 1995). The principal difficulty with these parasitoids was to develop efficient mass-rearing techniques. This has been overcome, and about 165 million C. stephanoderis  were released in Colombia between October 1994 and June 1995 (Orozco 1995). Ten private and two Cenicafé laboratories are now mass-producing C. stephanoderis  and expect to produce 500,000 wasps per year to cover 500,000 ha of coffee. Prorops nasuta  is still being evaluated, so it has not been transferred to private production and is produced at lower levels (170,000 per year). Phymastichus coffea  (Eulophidae), which parasitizes adult berry borers, is just being introduced to Colombia (Orozco 1995).

Beauveria bassiana  is probably the most important augmentative biological control agent of the berry borer in Colombia. It is easy to produce, but it is difficult to apply, and its effectiveness is affected by the weather. Infection rates in the field vary from 20 to 90% (Bustillo 1995). Over 100 isolates of B. bassian a have been evaluated, but only one is currently being mass-produced for application in coffee. Much B. bassiana  is being produced on farms and by small enterprises using very simple "artisanal" technology. Rice is cooked in glass bottles, inoculated, and in 24 days each bottle produces enough fungus to treat 100 trees. However, the fungus loses its pathogenicity after several generations on artificial media and must occasionally be reared on insects to restore virulence. Cenicafé provides pure inocculum for artisanal production to minimize this problem. The absence of quality control in artisanal production increases the chance that nonvirulent fungus is used, but such production makes the technology affordable to poor growers (1/10 the cost of commercial fungus). There are also four private companies that are licensed by the government (ICA) for industrial-scale production that must maintain high standards. About 60 metric tons of B. bassiana  were produced in Colombia in 1993, and 100 tons in 1994, for use in coffee (Bustillo 1995). Surveys indicate that 41% of growers are using B. bassiana  and 19% produce their own fungus (Duque 1995).

Metarhizium anisopliae  strains are also being evaluated to control the berry borer, targeting contamination of adults that emerge from fruit on the ground. Formulations of B. bassian a with neem oil are also being marketed. Coffee farms are generally located in mountainous terrain and vary greatly in size, and the growers vary in wealth and education (Duque 1995). Growers were not accustomed to apply insecticides before the arrival of the berry borer. Because berries ripen throughout the year they are harvested by hand, which means lots of cheap, poorly educated workers. The difficulty of training growers to adopt new IPM methods has been a difficult challenge. This makes classical biological control attractive, especially if it is sufficiently successful to not require active involvement of the growers. However, it appears that in Colombia both the parasitoids and fungal pathogens will have to be applied augmentatively and integrated with other control methods. Cultural control ("Re-Re" [recolección y repase]: removing ripe, overripe and dry berries) is practiced by 91% of growers and will continue to play an important role (Duque 1995). Insecticides are currently used by 76% of growers, although a third of this is only for spot treatment. Sampling to estimate the level of infestation is done by 54% of growers. The integration of insecticides with the biological control agents, and the timing of biological control applications are continuing to be refined and taught to growers.

Cassava mealybug in Africa

This is a well-documented example of a classical biological control project that has had a large impact on sub-Saharan Africa (Herren & Neuenschwander 1991). An unidentified mealybug first appeared on cassava in Africa in the Congo and Zaire in 1973. By 1986 it had spread across 70% of the African cassava belt, causing losses of up to 84%. In the 1970s nothing was known about mealybugs on cassava in the Americas. The African mealybug was identified as a new species, Phenacoccus manihoti,  and it was presumed to have come from the Americas, where cassava originated. Explorations for natural enemies were conducted by IIBC (=CIBC) and IITA in Central America and the northern part of South America. However parasitoids sent from the Neotropics failed to become established in cultures of the African mealybug. By 1980 it was realized that the mealybug common in northern South America had males whereas the African mealybug did not. The neotropical species was subsequently described as a separate species, P. herreni. P. manihoti  was finally located in Paraguay by A. C. Bellotti of CIAT in 1981. CIBC subsequently collected natural enemies, sent them to quarantine in London and on to IITA in Benin for multiplication and release in Africa. The encyrtid parasitoid, Epidinocarsus lopezi,  and the coccinellid predators Hyperaspis raynevali, H. notata  and Diomus  sp. became established in Africa. However the parasitoid appears to be the principal agent to reduce the mealybug population. Stunting of cassava tips by mealybugs decreased from 88% to 3%, and yield increased by 2500 kg/ha in the savanna region. The parasitoid was established in all ecological zones occupied by the mealybug, and by 1990 it was established in 25 countries covering an area of 2.7 million km2. The cost-benefit ratio of the project has been conservatively estimated to be 1:149.

Cassava mealybug in Northeast Brazil

Phenacoccus herreni,  a different species of mealybug than that causing problems on cassava in Africa, is a severe pest of cassava in Northeast Brazil. Although P. herren i is distributed throughout northern South America, it causes serious losses only in Northeast Brazil and only since the 1970s (Bellotti et al. 1994). Subsequent surveys found few parasitoids in Northeast Brazil. Both observations suggest that P. herreni  may be an exotic pest in this region, and it probably came from northern South America which is separated by the Amazon basin (Williams & Granara 1992). Farmers estimated losses to be more than 80%, but little was being done to solve the problem.

A UNDP-funded project for sustainable crop protection in cassava (PROFISMA/ESCaPP) involving CIAT, CNPMF/EMBRAPA and IITA began in 1993. This project facilitated cooperation between institutions in Northeast Brazil and CIAT. Field surveys and basic biological studies had already been conducted on several natural enemies of P. herreni  at CIAT. Surveys were conducted in 9 states in NE Brazil to measure damage and collect natural enemies (CIAT 1995). Epidinocarsis diversicornis, Aenasius vexans  and Acerophagus coccois  were imported from CIAT and released in NE Brazil in 1994 and 1995. Within 6 months E. diversicornis  had dispersed 100 km from its release site. Acerophagus coccois  has also become established and can be found in high numbers.

Cassava green mite in Africa

The cassava green mite, Mononychellus tanajoa,  is an indigenous pest of cassava in South America, but it is a serious problem only in dry regions. The mite first appeared in Africa in Uganda in 1971 (Yaninek & Herren 1988). The mite spread and soon became the principal pest of cassava in Africa, causing estimated losses of 13 to 80%. By 1985 it was found in 27 countries and had spread across most of the African cassava belt.

The IIBC began exploration for natural enemies in the neotropics in 1974 (Yaseen 1986). Funding from the IDRC permitted collection and shipment of a staphylinid predator Oligota minuta  and two phytoseiids. Oligota minuta  was released in Kenya in 1977 but failed to become established. Logistical problems prevented the release of any phytoseiids. In the early 1980s IITA began working on biological control and built a laboratory in Benin to receive and mass rear imported natural enemies. Meanwhile CIAT began intensive exploration and evaluation of phytoseiids and other predators in Latin America. Nine species of phytoseiids, in over 60 shipments, were sent from CIAT to Benin via quarantine at IIBC in England. Despite many releases in Africa none of these predators became established.

In 1988 IITA began receiving phytoseiid shipments from CNPMA/EMBRAPA in Brazil. Three Brazilian species became established in Africa. Typhlodromalus manihoti  became established in 1993 and is now present in 4 countries and is spreading slowly. Typhlodromalus aripo  alsobecame established in 1993 and is spreading at more than 1 km per month. It is now established in 11 countries and covers an estimated 150,000 km2 (IITA 1996). Green mite populations appear to be substantially lower and yields higher when this predator is present, but quantitative data are still being collected. Neoseiulus idaeu s is also established, but it does not appear to affect green mite populations and is hardly spreading at all.

A fungal pathogen, Neozygites  cf. floridana,  which causes dramatic epizootics in NE Brazil (Delalibera  et al. 1992) is also being studied in anticipation of releasing it in Africa. This work involves collaboration between scientists at EMBRAPA, CIAT, IITA, The University of Amsterdam, Boyce Thompson Institute in New York, and the Swiss Federal Research Station for Agronomy in Zurich.

Cassava green mite in Northeast Brazil

The cassava green mite Mononychellus tanajoa  was originally described in 1938 from specimens collected in NE Brazil using the local name "tanajoa" for the damage it causes on cassava. Although both cassava and the green mite are considered to be endemic to this region, it is still a serious pest. This situation may be caused by the dryness of the region, which favors survival of the pest and hinders that of phytoseiid predators (Bakker et al. 1993). There appear to be fewer natural enemies present in the dry interior of NE Brazil than in regions with more precipitation.

Exploration by CIAT in regions with similar dry climates, such as the north coasts of Colombia and Venezuela and coastal Ecuador, has encountered several phytoseiid species that do not occur in NE Brazil. In 1994 CIAT began sending phytoseiids to Brazil through quarantine at CNPMA/EMBRAPA in São Paulo. The two species released so far have been recovered only occasionally and in small numbers. Efforts to collect and evaluate other species from Ecuador are continuing.

Baculovirus

Baculoviruses have been used in the neotropics to control important pests on crops such as cotton, soybeans, potatoes and cassava. In one of the earliest examples in Colombia, Trichoplusia ni  was successfully controlled by the introduction of a nuclear polyhedrosis virus (NPV) from California in 1970.

At present, Brazil is the leading country in baculovirus research in Central and South America. Numerous on-going projects are evaluating the effectiveness of baculovirus for pests of corn, sugarcane, soybean, cassava, cotton, oil palm, cashew and passion fruit. In addition viruses have been identified in a wide range of insects; 33 have been recorded (Souza 1994). Although much of the research is still in the field- or laboratory-testing stage, formulated products are available for control of Anticarsia gemmatalis  on soybean,  Erinnyis ello  on cassava, Spodoptera fugiperda  on corn, and Diatraea saccharalis  on sugarcane.

The most successful use of a baculovirus is with A. gemmatalis,  the velvet bean caterpillar, in Brazil. Research on the baculovirus was initiated by Flavio Muscardi of EMBRAPA (Empresa Brasileira Pesquisa Agropecúaria) during the 1970s and is the best example of widescale application of a viral bioinsecticide (Moscardi & Corso 1981). Initially, diseased larvae were collected in the field, macerated and reapplied. This crude preparation was used by farmers until the mid 1980s. Around 1986 EMBRAPA produced a kaolin-based wettable powder formulation, which was made available to soybean producers. In recent years, commercial production by farmer cooperatives and private companies has expanded the use of the baculovirus. In 1982 the baculovirus was applied to about 2,000 ha; by 1993 it was being applied on over 1,000,000 ha (Moscardi 1993). This has resulted in a 65% reduction in pesticide use on soybeans, one of the major users of pesticides in Brazil.

A second example of successful use of a baculovirus is the control of the potato tuber moth, Phthorimaea operculella,  on stored potatoes. Tuber moth adults oviposit on stored potatoes, and larval feeding destroys the tubers. The International Potato Center (CIP), in Lima, Peru initiated research on the use of a baculovirus during the mid 1980s. Research showed that the baculovirus would reduce damage by 91 and 78%, 30 and 60 days after application (CIP 1988). Commercial formulated products of the baculovirus are presently available and are being widely used through the Andean Region of South America, especially in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. In addition, a formulated product is being produced in the Middle East for use in countries such as Tunisia and Egypt.

The cassava hornworm, Erinnyis ello,  is a serious pest in nearly all cassava growing regions of the Neotropics. Severe hornworm attack can cause complete plant defoliation, resulting in bulk root loss and poor root quality. During its five instar larva cycle, each hornworm consumes approximately 1,100 cm2 of foliage, about 75% of this being ingested during the fifth instar. This species tends to migrate in swarms, and fields can be completely defoliated with little warning when a "swarm" arrives and oviposits en masse. It is hypothesized that this migratory behavior is a possible defense against the large complex of natural enemies associated with E. ello,  rendering natural biological control ineffective (Bellotti, et al. 1992).

A granulosis virus of the family Baculoviridae was found attacking E. ello  larvae in cassava fields at CIAT in the early 1970s. Subsequent research showed that infested larvae collected from the field, macerated, filtered through cheesecloth, mixed with water, and applied to hornworm-infested cassava fields gives excellent control. A formulated product available in southern Brazil is being applied by small cassava farmers, giving excellent control (Schmitt 1988). More recently, the baculovirus is being used extensively for hornworm control on large cassava plantations in Venezuela where the availability of refrigeration facilitates virus storage, extending its shelflife (Bellotti, personal observation). Pesticide use in southern Brazil has been reduced by more than 60%, and by nearly 100% on some plantations in Venezuela.

Private industry

Augmentative biological control, the periodic release of natural enemies, is being employed to control several crop pests in the neotropics. Its success depends upon accessibility to a continuous supply of natural enemies, be they parasites, predators or entomopathogens. These "biological pesticides" offer an important component in integrated pest management programs designed to reduce or prevent the use of pesticides.

Colombia throughout its historical successes in biological control, has assumed leadership in Latin America in the development of technologies in augmentative biological control. This is a recent phenomenon, beginning during the early 1970s, especially on crops such as sugarcane and cotton. In Colombia, biological pesticides have been developed mainly in the Cauca Valley, a major agricultural region, for use primarily in sugarcane, soybean, cotton and coffee crops.

This emphasis on augmentative biological control has spawned a biological control industry. More than 20 commercial laboratories that produce parasitoids, predators or microbial pesticides are located in the Cauca Valley. Methods have been developed for the commercial production of parasitoids such as Trichogramma  spp., Spalangia cameroni, Muscidifurax raptor, Pachycrepoideus vindemmiae, Bracon kirkpatricki, Encarcia formosa, Cephalonomia stephanoderis, Paratheresia claripalpis, Metagonistylum minense, Phytoseiulus persimilis,  as well as entomopathogens such as Beauvaria bassiana  and Verticillium lecanii  (Granada & García in press).

Biological control, often as part of an integrated pest management program, has been established on several crops. These include cotton, cassava, coffee, oil palm, tomato, sugarcane, beans, soybeans, ornamentals and vegetables. Biological control of major pests of other crops such as plantains, rice, potatoes and certain vegetables are under investigation. Trichogramma  leads all other natural enemies in production and use. At least 20 laboratories are producing Trichogramma  including T. pretiosum, T. exiguum, T. atopovirilia, T. platneri,   and Trichogrammamatoideae bactrae  (Granada & Garc’a in press). Annual production during 1991 to 1993 averaged 14 million square inches with estimated use on 250,000 ha. The cost to produce and apply Trichogramma  in pest management programs competes favorably with that of chemical pesticide applications, reducing costs in crops such as cotton, sugarcane, tomato, soybean, cassava, and corn (Granada & García in press).

Colombian laboratories are also producing Trichogramma  for exportation. Importing countries include the USA, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Paraguay and Brazil. Sale of Sitotroga eggs, for rearing Trichogramma  and chrysopids, has developed as a secondary industry. Sitotroga  eggs are exported to the USA, Venezuela, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Peru and European countries. In addition, the Colombian biological pesticides industry has established laboratories for natural enemy production in Brazil (J. Jiménez & F. García R., unpublished data).

The Colombian model for this biological pesticide industry consists of several important phases. First is basic research, often accomplished by government, international, or private industries. Second is the development and transfer of technologies for mass production usually by the private sector. Third is the sustainability of this system, which includes research, usually by government agencies, and quality control. Experience has also shown that the government should constantly be evaluating and overseeing this process to assure quality production of natural enemies. Numerous commercial laboratories have failed, primarily due to their inability to maintain quality production (F. García R., personal com.).

References

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