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    Insects and fungi that save sugarcane crops

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    Foto1 Kirenia en el proceso de inoculación de la mosca Eucelatoria

    • In times of scarcity, when the boom in the arrival of chemical products is not in sight, a group from Azcuba strives to produce biological media, for the benefit of sugarcane production

    What will the president tell me? What will you ask me? What will you want to know? These were some of the questions that fluttered in the mind of Yaquelín Pereira Sánchez, a country woman, from a sugarcane community in the municipality of Ciro Redondo: Cacahual.

    When one knows the story of this woman, who has worked for 30 years at the Center for the Reproduction of Entomophages and Entomopathogens (CREE), belonging to Azcuba, which she directs as if with a magic wand in times of scarcity, one realizes that she is wearing pants long and his prestige was earned by example, without stopping for obstacles that appear on difficult paths.

    It was last June, in a seminar that brought together more than a hundred specialists from the sugarcane sector and analyzed the main problems and challenges of the sector. It was also attended by academics, scientists and other experts linked to the field, many of them brilliant women.

    “The president entered the summary of the harvest, recalls Yaquelín, to which he had invited us, and I with the shame reflected on my face, because those of us who had some responsibility with the cane field, with the harvest, had not fulfilled the sugar plan.

    «Although my collective is dedicated to producing bugs, mushrooms…, one does not stop feeling responsible.

    «The plant, which I also love and feel as mine, had not milled in the last three harvests due to synchronization problems with the bioelectric plant and for other reasons that I do not know well.

    "The stage was tense. There was not even the sound of a fly in the living room. I, who have a chronic ear for that, used to listening to them almost all day long due to the nature of my work...«But he knew how to lead the meeting and we soon became a great family. When I introduced myself, I received the first smile and that was a balm.

    «I explained to him what we were doing and he quickly told us that, in times of scarcity, the production of entomophages (insects that feed on another) and entomopathogens (microorganisms that are capable of causing a disease by pest insect, leading to its death after a short incubation period).

    «He also asked about my level of schooling, when we had started to put into practice the work collectives and the advantages of this new form of work organization.

    I explained that I was an Agroforestry Engineer, graduated when the Álvaro Reinoso Task. Regarding the labor collective, I spoke to him about our experience, about the good idea of ​​its creation, since it gave us more autonomy and although in our center we have always worked with a lot of love, now the collective has come to unite us much more and to feel and feel and help each other in the different tasks. For the small delegation from Ciego de Ávila, it was a day of learning.


    That exchange with the President of the Republic of the Republic of Cuba took the journalist to the CREE belonging to Azcuba, in areas of the Ciro Redondo sugar mill.

    As soon as you cross the threshold of the site of this story, surrounded by cane fields and next to the community of Villa, some 28 kilometers from the capital city, you realize that you have reached a "little cup of gold", something like a bed of roses, although thorns also come out there due to daily shortages, the blockage, to produce this or that fungus or insect that will later do good to sugarcane production, so deteriorated in recent years.

    Today's sugarcane development is based on the intensive application of science and innovation, including the search for alternatives from the endogenous in the manufacture of organic fertilizers, biopesticides and organominerals; elements that are still obtained in insufficient quantities to cover current demands, but that in this center produce at maximum capacity, precisely, an open door to other sectors, such as agriculture.

    Foto2 Olemis izquierda y Yaquelín revisan algunas de las producciones del centro

    Olemis (left) and Yaquelín review some of the center's productions

    You enter with two questions at the ready to start the conversation: Entomophagous? Entomopathogenic? In addition, they give you an easy answer, digestible for any beginning student. The first are the insects that feed on others; the latter, bacteria and fungi; microorganisms that are capable of making the insect or pest sick, leading to its death, after a short incubation period.

    Two women (Yaquelín and Olemis) excellently prepared, explain to you and you listen, although you only understand the basics, what you had studied so as not to present yourself blank to that kind of master class that, it was known, they would impart with devotion, in the style of most experienced of the pantomath.

    «In the group of entomopathogens, which we prepare under strict sanitary regulations, there is, among others, Bacillus Thuringiensis, a deadly enemy of lepidoptera larvae (butterflies). In the reproduction of entomophages (insects that devour or parasitize other insects) we have Tetratichus, destroyer of the worms that feed on the cob of corn and cabbage leaves; or the Trichogramma, a wasp that, released in the cassava fields, annihilates the springs, large and thick caterpillars that defoliate that crop».

    Agroforestry engineer Olemis Vega Guillén —also a graduate of the Álvaro Reinoso Task and with 27 years of experience in the same place—, a specialist in cane production and head of quality control at CREE, says that in the labor group they have many expectations, some of which have been fulfilled. «The average salary, for example, improved from around 3,000 to around 7,500, because we have the possibility of managing the expenses, the income, which we distribute among the group of 17 workers, 14 women and only three men.

    Foto3 Trabajo en el hospedero para la reproducción de los distintos entomófagos y entomopatógenos

    Work in the host for the reproduction of the different entomophages and entomopathogens

    Moreover, as if to reinforce the sense of belonging, Olemis affirms: «one falls in love with the Cree. It is a job that has no day, hours, rain, thunder or lightning, under a cyclone, holidays and carnivals, we have to come, because we work with living beings and we have to take care of them.

    The Cree enlisted many years ago —when Azcuba was the MInaz— to produce the Lipsofaga fly (Lixophaga diatraeae Townsend), which parasitizes the borer larva and reduces infestation rates in sugar cane, but later they diversified production towards other entomophagous and entomopathogenic, which today they market with various companies in the province.

    In addition, Olemis clarifies that those who use biological media have to be very responsible; have a strict discipline during its application, such as clean backpacks, that there is moisture in the soil, preferably apply it in the afternoon so that it affects all night and in the morning, before the sun's rays affect the crops. “We train anyone who asks for it, but there is still a lot of indiscipline in the field and that goes against the effectiveness of the application.

    Every year we produce 4 million flies and release 3,200,000, because we leave up to 20% for the recycling of the breeding stock. Protect more than 26 hectares with two applications.


    All our production units use the fly. We use the fly to control the cane borer and to control the corn moth.

    Other companies, such as Arnaldo Ramírez, which produces almost all of its entomophages and entomopathogens, and Empresa Agropecuaria Cubasoy, one of the largest in the country, mainly dedicated to the cultivation of soybeans, beans, corn, root vegetables and vegetables, also uses the CREE productions of Ciro Redondo.

    The work is constant, without a phone at hand, without whatsapp so that there is performance at work and the productions come out with quality and become millions of individuals who flood the fields.

    While Kirenia Sosa Díaz inoculated the flies, Yailene Aguilera Rodríguez peeled the chrysalises for the Tetrastichus inoculation, which will then be parasitized by the wasp and will give rise to 200 individuals for each chrysalis, something like a production chain that does not stop, not even on Saturdays, nor Sundays; nor on holidays or storms or tropical cyclones.

    Producers still prefer agrochemicals —not very friendly to the environment— and turn their backs on CREE productions; however, the species that are considered pests interact with beneficial insects, allowing a biological balance that, under natural conditions, that is, in crops, favors the control of said pest, leaving only a small threshold of tolerable damage, which does not mean big losses.

    Knowing that agrochemicals are scarce, this group thinks big about the production and intentional use of other alternatives, while studying and researching pest management, the use of lime hydrate, snuff, aqueous extracts of the tree neem, in addition to the use of cardona, repellent traps and other dilemmas that producers know and that strengthen the effect of biopesticides.