New pest threats for sugarcane in the new bioeconomy Franc¸ois-Re´gis Goebel Sallam

Available online at
New pest threats for sugarcane in the new bioeconomy
and how to manage them
Franc¸ois-Re´gis Goebel1 and Nader Sallam2
Global travel, world trade and change in climate conditions
increase the risks from pest and disease incursions and
outbreaks in many agricultural systems. This emphasises the
vital importance of biosecurity in pest management, a set of
preventive measures to reduce such risks. Sugarcane is grown
in many countries worldwide and is known to host more than
1500 insects and 80 diseases, but the vast majority have
restricted geographic distributions. However, the adaptability
of some pests and their incursion into sugarcane areas can be
surprising and very costly. Sugarcane and maize are the two
main commodities already responding to the pulls of the new
bioeconomy. The expansion of sugarcane regions for biofuel
production changes both the biosecurity risks for movement
and the local potential impacts for pest communities. Pest
management strategies will need to adapt. This is equally true
for managing new pest incursions as it is for agronomic
practices that may lead to a shift in pest pressure and
dynamics. This review considers the changes in the global
sugarcane industries resulting from the new bioeconomy and
the risks and required responses for managing the biosecurity
threats and pest management of arthropod sugarcane pests.
From historical examples, it is shown how the sugarcane
biofuel production systems are threatened by economically
important pests and what research is needed to implement
future pest management solutions.
CIRAD, Unite´ de Recherches Syste`mes de Culture annuels, Avenue
Agropolis, 34398 Montpellier, France
BSES Limited, PO Box 122, Gordonvale, QLD 4865, Australia
Corresponding author: Goebel, Franc¸ois-Re´gis
([email protected])
Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 2011, 3:81–89
This review comes from a themed issue on Terrestrial systems
Edited by Andy W Sheppard, S Raghu, Cameron Begley and
David M Richardson
Received 28 July 2010; Accepted 14 December 2010
Available online 15th January 2011
1877-3435/$ – see front matter
# 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
DOI 10.1016/j.cosust.2010.12.005
Introduction: sugarcane, a multiple resource
crop in a changing environment
The sugarcane crop possesses a tremendous potential
for the production of a wide range of carbon-chain molecules. The whole plant can be transformed and its
biomass contains higher proportion of lignin, cellulose
and hemicelluloses than any other C4 crops, such as
sorghum and maize [1]. Today, sugarcane is considered
as a multi-usage crop serving a variety of sectors from food
and pharmaceuticals to energy production. Recent
advances in industrial biotechnology are providing new
opportunities to capture additional revenue streams from
bioproducts (e.g. bioplastics) using sugarcane stalks and
residues (‘bagasse’) as energy feedstock [2]. Sugarcane is
grown on over 20 million hectares in over 110 countries
and the production ensures the incomes of millions of
growers in many rural areas. Almost 80% of the world
sugar is produced from sugarcane, mainly in developing
and emerging countries (Table 1) [3]. Brazil is the largest
sugar producer with 33 million tons in 2008/2009 and is
also the world’s second largest producer of ethanol
(22.5 billion l in 2007/2008) after the USA [3,4]. In
2008, both countries covered nearly 90% of the total fuel
ethanol production [4]. The Global Renewable Fuels
Alliance (GRFA) predicts that global production will
increase 16% in 2010 to 85.9 billion l up from 73.9 billion l
in 2009 [3]. Ethanol is still mainly produced from the
fermentation of sugar and in Brazil this industry has been
in existence for almost 40 years, with the advantage of
providing both products, sugar for food and biofuel for the
transport sector [2]. This country is now moving towards
second generation biofuels from the degradation of
cellulosic compounds in bagasse, as are many other
countries. The potential is tremendous as a yield of
100 tons of biomass per hectare (10 times sugar yields)
can produce 7500 l of ethanol. This yield potential is also
substantially higher than other gramineous ‘biofuel’ crops
(maize, sweet sorghum, miscanthus, etc.). The bagasse
can also be used in co-generation systems to provide
electricity for different mill activities in addition to fibre
products (e.g. paper and fibre board). The use of multiple
products from sugarcane redefines the way to manage the
crop and process the stems at the mill.
As the consumption for sugar will not decrease in developing and emerging countries, more agricultural land is
needed for biofuel production [4]. Brazil has recently
been very active to convert agricultural and pastoral lands
into sugarcane areas, but at a risk to natural ecosystems
[2]. Even though much progress has been made to
reduce the environmental impact of sugarcane production, there are issues with the expansion of sugarcane,
such as water, soil and air pollution (chemicals, fertilisers,
burning at harvest), competition with food crops, soil
erosion and compaction (during land preparation and
harvest), deforestation and habitat loss and impact on
Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 2011, 3:81–89
82 Terrestrial systems
Table 1
Main sugarcane producers and production data (2008/2009).
Sugar (million T)
Cane (million T)
Area harvested (million ha)
1524.4 a
Cane yield (T/ha)
Source: FO LICHT Sugar Year Book 2010.
Estimate. T/ha = tons per hectare.
biodiversity [2]. These issues are evident in developing
countries belonging to the African, Caribbean and Pacific
Group of States (ACP) due to the lack of strict regulations.
Today, with the expansion of sugarcane areas, increase in
world trade and ongoing climate change, more biosecurity
risks and threats are expected in producing countries. For
example, a suite of pests in a particular area is likely to
change and evolve rapidly with often important yield
reductions [5,6]. In this paper we provide an overview
of key sugarcane pests worldwide, give examples of
recent pest incursions and outbreaks, and then describe
factors that influence pest dynamics and drive pest management systems in the context of intensive biofuel
production. We then discuss ecologically based pest management approaches for minimising future pest risks.
Sugarcane pests of economic importance
Sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum L.) is a large tropical
perennial crop growing 2–6 m high and being harvested
annually for up to five years before requiring replanting.
Sugarcane varieties are highly polyploid and aneuploid
interspecific hybrids (2n = 100–130). Sugarcane is
attacked by a wide range of insects [7], including over
1500 species worldwide [8] in addition to more than 80
diseases due to bacteria, fungi, phytoplasmas, viruses and
nematodes. This review focuses on arthropod pests where
the major pests cause significant damage to all stages and
parts of the crop (i.e. root, stalks and foliage) [9,10]. The
major groups are:
Leaf feeders include armyworms (Lepidoptera, Noctuidae) and locusts (Orthoptera: Acrididae). Such pest
dynamics are unpredictable in nature and certain species
cause intermittent outbreaks [11]. Intensive use of mechanical harvesting and the use of thrash blankets along the
sugarcane rows can provoke armyworm outbreaks.
Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 2011, 3:81–89
Sap feeders are mostly Hemipteran species, including
aphids (Aphidoidea), scale insects (Coccoidea), whiteflies
(Aleyrodidae), mealybugs (Pseudoccidae), planthoppers
(Fulgoroidea) and froghoppers (Cercopoidea), Directly
feeding on the plant sap is compounded by some species
being known disease vectors. The sugarcane aphid, Melanaphis sacchari Zethntner vectors two viral diseases of
sugarcane; Sugarcane Mosaic virus (SCMV) and the
recently discovered Sugarcane Yellow Leaf virus [12].
The viral Fiji disease is vectored by the delphacid Perkinsiella saccharicida Kirkaldy. These pests are cosmopolitan so the maintenance of strict quarantine procedures is
needed to ensure protection against these major diseases.
Stalk feeders can be loosely classified depending on the
time of infestation and the feeding site into top feeders,
stem feeders and shoot feeders. Moth borers predominate
and are by far the most damaging sugarcane pests in all
cane growing countries, except Australia and Fiji [13].
Around 50 species of moths in the genera Chilo, Eldana,
Sesamia, Diatraea, Scirpophaga, Eoreuma, Tetramoera and
Acigona that attack sugarcane worldwide [7,14]. Many are
polyphagous readily attacking other gramineous crops
(maize, rice, millet, and sorghum) and wild grasses [14]
which provide pest refuges complicating crop-pest interactions. Larval damage reduces biomass and sugar content [15]. Moth borers are difficult to control because their
larvae are inaccessible inside the cane. Therefore, biological control and varietal resistance are main components of their management.
Root feeders are mainly white grubs (scarab beetles)
which cause plant drying and increased risk of the canes
collapse. Members of the subfamilies Dysnatinae, Rutelinae and Melolonthinae, the most damaging genera are
Hoplochelus, Dermolepida, Lepidotia, Heteronychus, Adoretus
New pest threats for sugarcane in the new bioeconomy and how to manage them Goebel and Sallam 83
and Anomala. Soil applications of chemical granules and
entopathogenic fungi are used to control them [16].
Other pests include weevils, termites, wireworms and leaf
beetles. Within the sugarcane agrosystem, there is also a
myriad of predatory arthropods (e.g. spiders, ants and
wasps) and other beneficial organisms that play a major
beneficial role in pest suppression [17,18]. Parasitoid
wasps such as Cotesia flavipes (Cameron) and Trichogramma spp. provide an effective control of eggs and
larvae of stemborers [15,17].
Pest incursion, a threat for sugarcane
industries: why biosecurity matters
Pest incursions are on the increase and can curb the local
economic viability of sugarcane production systems. Here
are four recent examples:
In 1973, in Re´union Island (French Overseas Department), the white grub Hoplochelus marginalis Fairmaire
was accidentally introduced from its native range in
Madagascar in potted ornamental plants and in 10 years
became a threat to the whole sugar industry [19]. This
pest found optimum field conditions for rapid population
growth assisted by a lack of predators, parasitoids and
entomopathogenic fungi that ensure a natural control in
Madagascar. After years of chemical control through the
1980 s, an effective fungus Beauveria brongniartii (Saccardo) Petch, was discovered in Madagascar on another
species of Hoplochelus and introduced into Re´union Island
where it successfully controlled the pest in most sugarcane areas [19]. As a generalist this grub also infests other
crops and wild grasses and so its continued suppression by
this fungus remains fragile. Re´union sugarcane industry
biosecurity is continually threatened by its proximity to
Mauritius, Madagascar and the African mainland and the
presence of many potential sugarcane pests there. In 2007
a new white grub (Alissonotum piceum besucheti Endro¨di)
arrived from Mauritius. Similarly H. marginalis is a major
biosecurity threat for sugarcane in Mauritius. Both
countries have now reinforced quarantine and biosecurity
measures at points of entry to protect their sugarcane
industries against future incursions.
In South Africa, the introduction of Fulmekiola serrata
(Kobus, 1892) (Homoptera: Thripidae) in 2004 supposedly from the islands in the Indian Ocean took the sugar
industry by surprise, particularly in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, where the bulk of the South African sugarcane crop is grown. Its rapid spread, which was associated
with a severe drought, has put the South African Sugarcane Institute (SASRI) on alert and research programs are
currently focused on this pest to find a control strategy. In
situations of high infestation, this pest is expected to
cause yield losses between 18% and 27% (tons cane/ha)
and between 16% and 24% (tons sucrose/ha) [20]. A
second threat for this country’s sugarcane industry is
the spotted stemborer Chilo sacchariphagus Bojer (Lepidoptera: Crambidae). South Africa already has a stemborer problem caused by the native species Eldana
saccharina Walker (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae). The spotted
stemborer is a major pest in many Asian countries,
Reunion and Mauritius [21] and was introduced into
Mozambique in 1999, where it is currently causing
economic losses in the Mozambican sugarcane areas near
the Zambezi River [21]. As a result of the threat to South
Africa, the sugarcane industry there has implemented a
biosecurity strategy based on pest surveillance at the
border and a planned rapid response [22].
In Brazil, the stemborer Diatraea saccharalis F. (Crambidae) has been a major pest in the sugar industry for many
years, but successful biological control has kept this pest
below economic impact thresholds most of the time [23].
However, in 2008, the giant cane borer Telchin licus Drury
(Lepidoptera: Castniidae), which is common in Brazil’s
northeastern states on other crops, was recorded for the
first time in Sao Paulo, the largest sugarcane growing
state. The larva (7–8 cm long) causes severe damage to
the cane internodes and reduces biomass and sugar yields
significantly reducing both sugar and ethanol production.
Sao Paulo accounts for about 60% of the national sugarcane crop and has the world’s highest yield. The borer has
spread across all sugarcane areas and is currently invading
the centre and south of Brazil. As there is no efficient
natural ennemies of this pest, development of control
strategies with insecticides and genetically modified cane
varieties using toxins of the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is underway [23,24].
Australia grows sugarcane in tropical Queensland and
Western Australia and is constantly threatened by exotic
pest incursions from close proximity to Papua New
Guinea and Indonesia, two other sugar producing
countries and also known for their rich biodiversity.
For example the sugarcane smut Ustilago scitaminea H.
& P. Sydow arrived from SE Asia into Australia in 2006
after sugarcane plantations were placed in northern Western Australia into the path of Asian air currents and from
there spread to Queensland [25]. Generally Australia is
known to have one of the best biosecurity and quarantine
systems in the world implemented by the Australian
Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS). The Australian sugarcane industry so far remains free of any major
moth borer pest problems. Pathway analysis showed that
22 of the 36 exotic moth borer species elsewhere in the
world have the potential to invade Australia (BSES Limited, unpublished data). The borer species considered to
have greatest potential to cause economic harm are presented in Table 2. These pests are considered to present
severe consequences for the capacity of the Australian
sugar industry to develop a viable biofuel and other
bioproduct capacity [13,26,27]. As a result the industry
has developed an Industry Biosecurity Plan (IBP) with
Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 2011, 3:81–89
84 Terrestrial systems
Table 2
High threat stemborers for Australia in order of importance.
Moth borer species
World distribution
Sesamia grisescens,
S. inferens
PNG, Japan, central and
South East Asia, Indonesia
Scirpophaga excerptalis
Central to South East Asia,
Indonesia and PNG
Chilo sacchariphagus,
C. infuscatellus,
C. auricilius, Chilo spp.
India, Thailand, Indonesia, PNG,
Indian Ocean Islands, Africa.
Diatraea saccharalis,
Diatraea spp.
South and North America
(Louisiana, Florida, Texas)
Caribbean Islands
Eldana saccharina
Many sub-saharan countries
in Africa esp. South Africa
state and federal government agencies which evaluates
the risks and entitles them to government assistance in
emergency response should there be an incursion through
an Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed (EPPRD) [26].
Through this planning, potential pests are categorised
based on risk and the category determines the proportion
of the response costs the industry will need to bear, which
ensures ‘who will pay?’ does not get in the way of a rapid
Key agronomic and ecological factors likely to
change pest infestation with the sugarcane
expansion for biofuel production
A key question is whether massive increase of global
biomass production is likely to change pest-plant interactions? It would be difficult to predict dramatic changes
in pest populations simply from a switch in sugarcane
from sugar to ethanol and other non-food by-products.
However, further intensification of agronomic practices
and land use change, the incorporation of crop genetic
improvements and altered harvest regimes should lead to
predictable shifts in pest and beneficial natural enemy
communities in new biofuel sugarcane areas. Increased
scientific understanding of landscape effects on spatial
crop–pest–natural enemy interactions will be needed to
sustain pest suppression. The sharing of generalist pests
across sugarcane and existing gramineous crops (e.g.
maize and sorghum) and other biofuel options (e.g. miscanthus and giant reed) will have broader consequences
on pest dynamics in all these species in the same agricultural landscape. A number of studies and experiences are
Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 2011, 3:81–89
Risks for Australia and control options
S. grisescens is a major sugarcane pest in PNG causing
yield reduction in biomass. Can be controlled by insecticides
but biocontrol and varietal resistance are also used. Highest
category 2 pest so far in IBP given close proximity and
climate matching and as such that government would cover
80% of response costs.
Kills the top of cane (‘top borer’) but not the cane stalks or cane
internodes. Close proximity, climate matching and lack of an
effective control strategy make this a high threat for Australia.
Next highest threat for Australia is C. sacchariphagus, given
close proximity in Indonesia, but effective control strategies
exist for all Chilo species using inundative biocontrol using egg,
larval and pupal parasitoids. Attacks cane internodes and
bores wide/deep tunnels reducing sguar and biomass production.
D. saccharalis is a widely distributed generalist grass stem borer in
wild grasses, sugarcane and maize causing high yield reductions.
Brazil and many other countries maintain levels below economic
thresholds (5% internodes bored) using egg and larval parasitoids.
Medium risk for Australia.
This species is present in regions of Africa and has a wide range
of host plants including Papyrus (its original host). The pest is hard
to control using parasitoids because of its cryptic biology. In South
Africa, varietal control and insecticides are used. Medium risk
to Australia.
showing these effects and their predictability in different
cropping systems [28–30,31]. Key factors known to
strongly influence the sugarcane pest and beneficial
arthropod communities are summarised in Figure 1.
Habitat destruction, biodiversity loss and impact on
beneficial insects
Agricultural intensification and large-scale monocultures
lead to considerable losses in habitat and biological
diversity at multiple spatial and temporal scales
[32,33]. Changes to a simpler landscape structure and
an overall reduction of native remnant communities alter
movements of insect pests and natural enemies and
increase pest infestation levels and the likelihood of pest
outbreaks in other cropping systems [34,35]. In South
Africa, small scale sugarcane farms (<2 ha) have 2–3 times
lower infestation levels of the stemborer E. saccharina
than in larger commercial farms predominated by crop
monocultures [36]. The small farms are a diversification of
crops interspersed with mixed marginal and natural vegetation and pests are probably naturally suppressed as
such landscapes are better at supporting natural enemy
diversity. Sugarcane appears therefore to be no different
from other cropping systems and the move to increased
production intensity and larger new areas devoted to
sugar cane for biofuel will negatively impact a natural
capacity for pest suppression. This will be no different if
marginal lands are converted to sugarcane for biofuel
production. In developing countries (e.g. Africa and South
East Asia), economic pressures will be to capitalise on an
emerging bioeconomy and grab existing fertile land to
New pest threats for sugarcane in the new bioeconomy and how to manage them Goebel and Sallam 85
Figure 1
Use of susceptible varieties
(including GM sugarcane)
in high infested areas
Si-deficient soils
Over application of
Poor quality of
sugarcane setts,
poor germination
Misuse or overuse of
Proximity of other
gramineous crops with
shared pests
Biodiversity loss, lack
of beneficials due to
Water stress due to
mismanagement (or
malfunction) of ri rigation
systems, poor drainage.
Harvesting delay
trash blanketing
burning at harvest
Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability
Main management practices and environmental constraints likely to the change pest pressure.
capture such benefits for the local economies. All of this
will likely lead to increased sugarcane and homogeneity
in the landscape.
It will be critical to understand the impacts of landscape
diversity on maximising natural pest control potential,
particularly from parasitoids, at different scales while also
maximising production. The amount of clearance of
native vegetation to create new sugarcane biofuel areas
and how this will affect pest outbreaks and natural control
is the first aspect to consider. Indeed the effectiveness of
active biocontrol practice in sugarcane agrosystems may
also suffer from natural habitat clearance and compromise
the many successes of biocontrol in regulating sugarcane
pest populations. Augmentative releases of biocontrol
parasitoids, will be more effective in the long term if
suitable habitats for sustaining these parasitoids are
already in place [32]. Understanding multi-use landscape
design, including restoring some native vegetation has
been shown to improve pest control strategies in other
cropping systems [37].
Crop husbandry, overuse of fertilisers and silicon
deficiency: a strong influence on pest population
Sugarcane farming practices such as burning at harvest,
still in use in developing countries in Africa and Asia, have
a significant impact on biodiversity and cause the
immediate destruction of the natural enemy communities
important for pest control [17]. The environmental concern of burning has led many countries to implement
‘green harvesting’ which is also believed to reduce pest
incidence. Poor quality of sugarcane sets used for new
plantations, over use of nitrogen and positive water stress
due to poor drainage or irrigation malfunctions can also
increase pest infestations [38,39].
The link between nitrogen inputs and pest abundance
(particularly aphids and mites) is well understood in a
wide range of crops (apple, beans, tomato, sorghum, etc.)
[40]. In South Africa, a positive correlation between
nitrogen input and pest infestation levels exists for the
African stalk borer E. saccharina [36] and proved to be
another factor leading to lower pest prevalence on small
scale farms there. The critical threshold of 100 kg N per
ha was found to agree with results obtained in Cuba for D.
Saccharalis [41]. There is a tradeoff between fertiliser
inputs to increase productivity and associated increased
losses to pests.
Silicon content of the plant tissue also enhances resistance to pests and diseases [42]. Water stress, during
droughts for example, seems to induce greater polymerisation of silicon or changes its structure within plant
tissues, leading to a harder external barrier associated with
the cell walls, through which larvae must penetrate. In
South Africa, silicon content in sugarcane adversely
affects the biology of E. saccharina and this impact is
exacerbated in drought conditions [43,44]. Further
experiments in the field are underway to confirm this
on a larger scale, and if true, silicon content could be
manipulated to improve pest management.
The temptation of using more agrochemicals to protect
new biofuel sugarcane crops
Even though the consumption of pesticides is relatively
important, sugarcane is not a highly treated plots crop
compared to other commodities (coffee, cotton, corn,
soybean, etc.). The dense growth form of sugarcane
limits insecticide effectiveness as do the endophagous
habits of many of the key pests. Nonetheless some
countries, notably South Africa, USA and Australia continue to apply insecticides to control major pests
Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 2011, 3:81–89
86 Terrestrial systems
[16,45,46]. This has led to significant environmental
issues. In Australia, the proximity of sugarcane areas to
the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage site has increased
runoff pollution risk and led to strict regulations for the
use of pesticides and fertilisers there [47]. In developing countries (particularly in Africa) and where agrochemical use is unsustainable and poorly regulated
broad scale insecticides are still applied over large areas
using ultra light planes or helicopters. This can induce
insecticide resistance, outbreaks of secondary pests and
destruction of natural enemy communities. As sugarcane
industries, driven by overseas or international private
companies, expand to meet the ‘biofuel’ demands, regulations and the science needed to underpin them will be
critical to maximise production and pest control while
minimising environmental harm.
Varietal resistance to sugarcane pests and GM
sugarcane varieties
Use of conventional (non-GM) pest or disease resistant
varieties is a major component of the IPM in sugarcane
ecosystems but if recommendations for their use are not
followed the risk of elevated pest pressure will remain
[48–50]. New pest resistant varieties will remain part of
the industry devoted to bioenergy production. However,
‘high fibre’ varieties are being developed for biofuel
production and it is not known yet how these will effect
pest performance particularly stem-borers. Screening
such varieties in the field against a range of pest types
might show if higher proportion of cellulose, hemicelluloses and lignins will influence pest abundance. Similarly
‘high sucrose’ varieties also currently under development
are also likely to influence pest dynamics as it is known
that sweet varieties are generally more susceptible to
stem-borers. There is a need to directly consider the pest
consequences of any new varieties and whether pest
resistance can be an active parallel component of variety
The use of genetically modified (GM) sugarcane has been
identified as a future strategy for the expansion of sustainable sugarcane production [51]. The associated risks;
capacity and public concerns about GM based sugar
products entering the human food chain, biodiversity
impacts, capacity for GM cane to escape and invade
ecosystems beyond production systems or transfer the
genes to closely related species have also been considered
[51]. More importantly here the likely development of
pest resistance to transgenic crops represents a significant
threat to the large scale adoption of these cultivars
[52,53]. The direct and indirect impacts GM varieties
may have on the dynamics of the pests and their associated natural enemies will need to be understood. This is
especially important for existing successful biological
control strategies where volatiles emitted by the host
plant following a pest attack play an important role.
Research on new traits to be incorporated into sugarcane
Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 2011, 3:81–89
varieties for pest particularly stemborer resistance is not
yet complete [54]. GM sugarcane is likely to offer significant benefits for non-food commodity options for the
industry, but will also generate significant acceptability
risks for sugar production as a food additive. This conflict
will also play out as it has for canola where there are real
problems for cross contamination between production
supply chains. As transgenic sugarcane varieties have
not yet been commercialised we need to learn from other
industries where GM varieties are under production (e.g.
in maize, canola, cotton and soybean crops).
Lessons and research avenues for sugarcane
pest management: towards an areawide
ecologically based approach
Conventional Integrated Pest Management (IPM) systems have focussed on insect-plant interactions and cultural practices, biological control and host plant resistance
characteristics to minimise pesticide use at the field/farm
scale. Despite considerable progress in pest control,
scientists are increasingly demonstrating the need to
broaden conventional pest management systems by including a landscape component. This is mainly because
insect population dynamics operate at a regional scale
(metapopulation concept), which is particularly true with
not only polyphagous pests and/or invasive species, but
also their antagonists. To illustrate this, Mark D. Hunter
[32] argued: ‘As insect ecologists, we are obligated to
understand the processes that influence the abundance,
richness and diversity of insects in fragmented landscapes. As pest managers, we need to know how the
architecture of landscapes influences pest population
dynamics and their interactions with natural enemies
and agents of control. As conservation biologists, we must
develop strategies to maintain focal insect species, faunal
diversity and the trophic interactions that drive key
ecosystem processes’. This provides the basis for future
research to implement an ecological and area-wide pest
management for future sugarcane production systems
within multi-use landscapes. Mixing agronomy and
ecology (‘agroecology’) using multi-disciplinary knowledge of crop–pest–natural enemy relationships in the
ecosystem integrates multiple practices that minimise
impact on natural processes [55]. Areawide pest management has increased dramatically over the past decade
thanks to the development of remote sensing and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). These tools can
generate maps of infestations (based on pest spectral
signatures) combined with other map layers to localise
high risk areas and therefore provide useful prediction
systems for smart application of a management response
[56]. A biosecurity component can be added to this to
ensure rapid identification of new pests using new technologies (e.g. barcoding, remote microscopy, and in field
diagnostic tests), new pest risk assessment and appropriate surveillance and cost-shared response in conjunction
with government agencies.
New pest threats for sugarcane in the new bioeconomy and how to manage them Goebel and Sallam 87
Summary and conclusions
The rise of bioenergy production has the potential to
revolutionise the sugarcane industry from its days as a
low value crop when viability hung of the international
price of sugar. The versatility and productivity of sugarcane
will continue to support agriculture through multiple
energy products for developing, emerging and developed
economies. In this context, the International Sugar Organisation (ISO) predicts a rapid expansion of new sugarcane
areas in almost all producing countries. Pest management
problems in this industry are however set to get worse. The
destruction of natural habitat to create new sugarcane
areas, intensive agronomic practices and lack of naturally
occurring enemies are key drivers to pest outbreaks.
Vegetation clearance even on marginal lands continues
unabated in developing countries in the need to achieve
economic growth. The risks are high and need urgent
assessment [57]. The industry needs precision agriculture
to link management to the spatial distribution of pest
outbreaks at large scales and allow early warning pests
predictions. Ecologically based solutions combined with
creative science-based landscape and area-wide management strategies will be required to reduce pest pressure
regardless the production focus (sugar, ethanol or other
by-products). Maintaining beneficial arthropods in the
sugarcane landscape via natural refuges will be a key part
of any strategy.
Changing farming practices that ignore the implications
for pest dynamics will compromise this industry. The
change from sugar or fibre production will have implications for the tri-trophic interactions between crop, pests
and natural enemies. New pest incursions will increasingly threaten the expansion of sugarcane production
areas in new regions or countries, because of increased
trade and poor biosecurity measures in many developing
countries. These industry changes are generating key
challenges for pest management that will require scientists, agronomists and producers to work together.
The results and conclusions presented here are part of outcomes from two
current projects on sugarcane pest management funded by the Australian
Center of International Agricultural Research (project Hort/2006/147) and
Europe through the Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellowship
(Project Ecogrubs 235862, Framework program 7). We thank our research
colleagues from BSES Limited and CIRAD for their useful inputs and
comments on this manuscript. The OECD Cooperative Research
Programme provided support for the authors to attend a Biosecurity in the
New Bioeconomy summit organised by CSIRO in Canberra Australia from
17 to 21 November 2009.
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