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It seems that every year, a new pest emerges as a serious threat to one — or sometimes many — fruit crops in the U.S. In 2009, the spotted wing drosophila struck berries and cherries out west, and in 2010, the brown marmorated stink bug wreaked havoc on crops throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. This year, growers from coast to coast are bracing for infestations, and crop protection companies are working diligently to help growers keep pests at bay. We talked with Tim Damico, executive vice president NAFTA for Certis USA, Hub Miller, portfolio marketing leader for Dow AgroSciences, and John Koenig, insecticide brand manager for Syngenta, about the challenges growers face when it comes to insect control, and what’s on the crop protection horizon:

Q: What is the biggest battle growers have with insect control?

DAMICO: I think one of the biggest challenges they have today is resistance management. It seems like some of the newer compounds, and actually some of the older compounds, seem to be prone to resistance — they develop that much sooner than we’ve seen in the past. The pace has quickened.

In addition, preserving beneficial and predatory species, especially within an orchard or grove, is becoming more and more important and a vital part of the IPM program.

The other part would be that if they are exporting their crop to Japan, Europe, and other places where residues (MRLs) are a concern. That’s been an increasing concern, especially over the last two or three years.

MILLER: Recently introduced insect pests have become very problematic for both fruit and vegetable producers. The spotted wing drosophila (SWD) is the source of headaches for many producers of cherries, blueberries, and raspberries. It is a new pest and management programs have yet to be fully developed. The bagrada bug has been a significant challenge in cole crops, leading to damaged plants and increased prices.

KOENIG: In general, the biggest challenge facing growers is selecting the right tool to do the job in a cost-effective manner while meeting federal and local regulations. Increasingly, growers must also consider regulations of the countries to which they might export, specifically considering MRLs. In addition, a few pests continue to be particularly problematic, due to their ability to either: 1) cause serious damage, 2) transmit plant pathogens, or 3) develop insecticide resistance.

Q: What are you doing to address some of the newer insect pressures, such as brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) and spotted wing drosophila?

DAMICO: We’re looking at a microfungicide we refer to as PFR 97 (Paecilomyces fumosoroseus). This is a fungus that controls several stages of the insect, and we’re looking at this particular microfungicide for the control of stink bugs. Since stink bugs have a tendency to aggregate together, we think a biological control product, such as PFR 97, may be a part of the control program. We don’t necessarily see it being a stand alone effort, but it may be part of an integrated program.

MILLER: Dow AgroSciences has been heavily evaluating its current products, and Delegate insecticide (spinetoram) is one of our best hopes for the control of SWD. GF-120 NF Naturalyte fruit fly bait (spinosad) is being evaluated, as well. It has shown great potential as a product that can augment Delegate for the control of SWD. Entrust insecticide (spinosad) provides an effective option for organic producers.

KOENIG: Syngenta recently obtained registration of Endigo ZC insecticide (lambda-cyhalothrin; thiamethoxam) on pome fruit, stone fruit, and vegetables, and it is expected to be very effective against the BMSB. Warrior II with Zeon Technology insecticide (lambda-cyhalothrin) is effective against SWD, and in fact, Syngenta has just issued a 2(ee) recommendation for its control in California sweet and tart cherries.

Q: What do growers need to do to minimize resistance issues?

DAMICO: Working a biological product into your rotation has a tendency to prolong the life of your traditional chemistries. That’s because the biological products offer different and often multiple modes of action.

MILLER: Rotating products with different chemical classes is vital to minimizing resistance. A second, but less effective strategy, is tank-mixing products from different classes. Growers should always consult the resistance management guidelines found on product labels. Extension specialists and university researchers are valuable resources who also can help curtail resistance issues.

KOENIG: Growers need to follow the resistance-management guidelines that are found on insecticide labels. Most importantly, this means not relying repeatedly on one class of chemistry but instead routinely rotating to other modes of action.

Q: What role does sustainability play in crop protection?

DAMICO: I believe that a grower is looking for solutions that are going to meet multiple needs for an extended period of time. They need to offer them a resistance management strategy. They need to offer them export and harvest flexibility, and most importantly, they need to offer cost-effective control. I am not necessarily saying the solution has to be renewable (if so, all the better), but the solution needs to provide multiple and repeatable benefits.

MILLER: A multitude of conversations with producers have taught us that growers require products that are effective in both the short- and long-term, for today’s generations and tomorrow’s. Growers put their trust in us to give them the tools necessary to thrive. Sustained success on farms across the country will slowly fade over time without these tools. We need to reward their trust with products that will allow them to flourish now and in the future.

Q: Where do you see the crop protection industry headed in the future?

DAMICO: I really see a merging of the two strategies — your traditional chemistries being used in conjunction with your biological biochemical offerings.

MILLER: Products will be softer and will likely have a narrower focus compared to the broad-spectrum compounds of the past. Transgenic crops and biotech solutions will continue to progress, but the crop protection industry will play a crucial role for many years to come.

KOENIG: I think that the crop protection industry will continue to be technology driven. For instance, I believe that GMO traits will eventually be introduced in specialty crops, especially vegetables. In addition to input traits, there will be an interest in developing output traits, things like better flavor or increased nutritional value.

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