T. Eugene "Gene" Reagan and Dale Pollet
LSU AgCenter scientists conduct research to identify the best insecticides to manage sugarcane insect pests without causing damage to the environment. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Louisiana sugarcane industry relied exclusively on aerial sprays of the organochlorine insecticide, Endrin, averaging more than three applications per acre annually to control the sugarcane borer. During this period, the Louisiana brown pelican became extinct in this part of its range, and the American bald eagle was reduced to as few as six or seven nesting pairs in the 15-parish region spanned by the sugarcane industry. Biomagnification of the DDT-group of pesticides concentrating at higher levels of the food chain quickly became recognized as a major environmental issue. This helped to hasten the removal of organochlorine insecticide labels.
The reintroduction of the brown pelican together with improved pest management have become so successful that the pelicans are no longer on the endangered species list. More than 68 nesting pairs of bald eagles are now documented to maintain their territories within the sugarcane area of South Louisiana. In 2000, the bald eagle was finally removed from the threatened species list. Efforts by AgCenter scientists and others have contributed substantially to the major resurgence of wildlife in South Louisiana. Recently labeled pyrethroid insecticides fit better in the management system because they are environmentally friendly. However, they have the potential to enhance secondary pests with repeated applications. Because of the narrow range of activity and minimum environmental risk posed by Confirm (which now represents 70 percent of the sugarcane borer insecticide use), its product developers continue to receive environmental awards.
T. Eugene "Gene" Reagan and Dale Pollet, both professors, Department of Entomology, LSU AgCenter, Baton Rouge, La.
(This article appeared in the spring 2002 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture