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 In Focus

Safe control of Guatemalan potato moth

Published 2000-01-04

In 2002 Professor Peter Witzgall, Department of Crop Science, Swedish University of Agricultural Science Alnarp, Sweden, has been granted an Institutional Grant for cooperation, up to four years, with Dr Alba Marina Cotes Prado, Colombian Corp. for Agricultural Research, Corpoica, Colombia, within the field ”Integration of biological control methods for sustainable insect management in potato”.

A total amount of 128 000 kronor for the first two year period 2002-2004 are intended to cover the exchange of individuals of participating institutions.

The Guatemalan potato moth - Tecia solanivora Povolny (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae) - is the most serious pest of potato in Central America and adjacent South American countries. It has recently also been introduced to Europe.

Harvest losses in Colombian potato crops frequently attain 50%, despite multiple insecticide sprays. The larvae feed on potato tubers in the soil and are thus largely protected from sprays. Stored potatoes must be protected with further insecticide treatments. This overuse of insecticides is a threat to the producers, the consumers and the environment.

Biological control methods

Insects communicate with sex pheromones for mating. Synthetic pheromones can be used to prevent mate-finding in adults. Insect pathogens, such as fungi or viruses, can be used to infest and control insect larvae. Both pheromones and natural insect pathogens are non-toxic and species-specific - they do not harm beneficial insects or other animals.

The goal of our project is to integrate pheromones and insect pathogens for efficient control of Guatemalan potato moth. The knowledge obtained during this project will be applicable to other insects.

The partners

The Biological Control Laboratory, at the Colombian Corporation of Agricultural Research (Corpoica), Bogotá has an international reputation for research on insect pathogens, including large-scale biotechnical production.

The Chemical Ecology Group at SLU Alnarp has been funded by MISTRA, Sweden, to develop the practical use of insect pheromones. A joint-stock company, PheroNet (, has been created to provide a link between research and application.

Rationale for collaboration

Higher education of Colombian students is an efficient and respectful contribution to industrial development in South America.

Furthermore, the matching know-how of the Colombian and Swedish partners on behaviour-modifying chemicals and insect pathogens will strengthen our newly founded company PheroNet. We currently prepare tight collaboration with an international plant protection industry for improved impact. Only the creation of multinational clusters will help to maintain leading-edge research on new plant protection techniques in Sweden.

Senast uppdaterad: 04-09-29 14:00

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