Whiteflies Management in Sugarcane: Symptoms, Treatment, Chemical, Biological, Natural, and Organic Control

Small sap-sucking insects called whiteflies have the potential to harm sugarcane plantations seriously. These insects are frequently observed on the undersides of leaves. They are known for their quick reproduction, which can result in significant infestations that can weaken or even destroy the plant.

Whiteflies Management in Sugarcane

Bemisia tabaci and Aleurotrachelus socialis are the two most prevalent whitefly species that harm sugarcane. In sugarcane trees, these whiteflies can result in leaf yellowing, stunted development, and decreased yield.

To manage crop damage, whitefly infestations in sugarcane fields must be controlled. Biological and chemical pesticides, as well as cultural practices, can help farmers tackle this pest. This article aims to help sugarcane farmers avoid Whitefly infestations and keep their crops healthy by providing useful insight into these management methods.

Whiteflies Management in Sugarcane

Life Cycle of Whiteflies

  • In sugarcane, the female whitefly starts the life cycle by depositing a row of yellowish eggs on the underside of the leaves. After laying out for a prolonged period, the eggs will turn completely black.
  • When the eggs develop into immature nymphs, they are pale golden. Still, they eventually mature into shiny black creatures with waxy fringes around them.
  • During the pupal stage, also known as the fourth instar, the insect grows marginally in size, turns a drab gray color, and acquires a white ‘T’ shaped marking on its thorax.
  • The mark breaks apart as the adult emerges. The wings of adult whiteflies are hyaline and coated in a waxy bloom; their bodies are a pale yellow.

Host range: Whiteflies are a polyphagous group of insects that can infest a wide variety of crops, including vegetables (tomato, cucumber, pepper), fruits (citrus, grapes, melons), ornamental plants (hibiscus, poinsettia), and field crops (corn, soybeans, wheat). (cotton, soybean). Additionally, they infest sugarcane, tobacco, and numerous other plant species.

Identification of Whiteflies in Sugarcane in the Field

  • It is possible to identify whiteflies in sugarcane fields by examining the plants. Whiteflies are typically found feeding on plant sap on the undersides of foliage.
  • Infested leaves may turn yellow and wilt, and whitefly honeydew can attract insects and promote the development of black sooty mold.
  • The presence of whiteflies in sugarcane fields can be confirmed by examining the leaves for the presence of small, winged insects and their larvae, as well as the mentioned symptoms.

Damage Symptoms of Whiteflies in Sugarcane

  • The yellowing of foliage can eventually result in leaf loss.
  • The leaves can progressively turn pinkish or purple and dry out.
  • Due to whitefly nymphs, infested foliage may appear white and have black dots, which are their excrement.
  • Whitefly infestations can severely cause stunted growth, decreased yield, and even plant death.
  • Whitefly honeydew can attract insects and promote the growth of black sooty mold, further harming the plant.

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Sugarcane Plantation

Factors Favoring Growth/ Causes of Whiteflies Spread in the Field

  • Whiteflies are approximately 0.8-1 mm long and are covered with a white to yellowish granular, waxy secretion.
  • On the underside of leaves, eggs are deposited, and the nymphs are yellow to white, flat, oval, and pale green.
  • Adult whiteflies cannot thrive without feeding on their host plant for several days.
  • When disturbed, they may form a cloud on the undersides of leaves.
  • Whiteflies grow in warm, dry environments and transmit viruses such as the tomato yellow leaf curl virus and the cassava brown streak virus.

Impact of Whiteflies on Sugarcane Yield

Whiteflies have a big effect on sugarcane yield, causing growth to slow, sugar content to go down, and overall yields to decrease. When the infestation is severe, the sugarcane plants can die, resulting in the loss of the entire harvest and financial trouble for the farmers.

Cultural Management of Whiteflies in Sugarcane

  • Avoid using insecticides randomly to control other pests, which can contribute to whitefly resistance and secondary pest outbreaks.
  • Use sugarcane varieties resistant to whitefly infestations whenever possible to reduce the likelihood of whitefly infestations.
  • Implement proper crop management practices, such as punctual irrigation, fertilization, and weed control, to promote plant health and reduce stress, making the plants less attractive to whiteflies.
  • To prevent the emergence of adult whiteflies, remove infested leaves that contain whitefly pupae and dispose of them promptly by burning or burying them.

Biological Management of Whiteflies in Sugarcane

  • Whiteflies in sugarcane can be successfully controlled with BMPs, rather than chemical pesticides.
  • Beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, lacewings, and parasitic wasps, can reduce whitefly numbers by preying on them.
  • It is possible to use pathogenic fungi as biological control agents to infect and eradicate whiteflies. Some examples include Beauveria bassiana, Isaria fumosorosea, Verticillium lecanii, and Paecilomyces fumosoroseus.

Chemical Management of Whiteflies in Sugarcane

  • Whitefly-specific insecticides can be used for the chemical management of pests in sugarcane. However, a comprehensive strategy that includes preventative steps and biological treatments should be considered.
  • To prevent whitefly populations from becoming resistant, it is advised to use a rotation of goods.
  • The whitefly population can be reduced by using products containing bifenthrin, buprofezin, fenoxycarb, deltamethrin, azadirachtin, lambda-cyhalothrin, cypermethrin, pyrethroids, pymetrozine, or spiromesifen, or a mixture of these substances.

Organic Management of Whiteflies in Sugarcane

  • Without synthetic insecticides, sugarcane whiteflies can be effectively managed with organic management techniques.
  • Using natural insecticides derived from sugar-apple oil, pyrethrins, insecticidal detergents, Neem seed kernel extract (NSKE 5%), and Neem oil (5ml/L water) can be effective for controlling whitefly populations.
  • Implement cultural practices such as crop rotation, intercropping, and trap cropping to deter whiteflies and promote the development of natural predators.

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Sugarcane Field

Preventive Measures for Control of Whiteflies

  • Preventive measures for whitefly control in sugarcane include planting companion crops like marigolds, planting tall-growing plants as border crops, sowing at the right time, using denser plant spacing, and monitoring the field with sticky traps.
  • Balanced fertilization, removal of infested leaves, controlling weeds and alternate hosts, removing plant residues after harvest, planning a short fallow, and using UV-absorbing greenhouse plastic films.
  • Avoid using broad-spectrum insecticides that can harm beneficial insects. Intercropping with non-susceptible plants can also be helpful.

Conclusion

Effective management of whiteflies in sugarcane requires an integrated strategy incorporating preventative measures, correct cultural practices, and a combination of chemical, biological, natural, and organic control methods. Regular monitoring and prompt interventions are essential for minimizing damage and sustaining yield.

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