Biological control of insects in Brazil and China: history, current programs and reasons for their successes using entomopathogenic fungi
Brazil and China have been successful in the use of microbial control methods to manage several agricultural and forest insects. In both countries, entomopathogenic fungi (EF) have been used for pest management since the 1970s. However, EF production and commercialization have not been constant in either country. Several companies and cooperatives suspended their activities or shut down from the 1970s to the 1990s. This was due to loss of confidence in available mycoinsecticides by Brazilian farmers or due to reduced involvement and government subsidies for biological control in China; and, consequently, mycoinsecticides were largely replaced by inexpensive chemical insecticides. Starting in the 1990s and continuing until today, however, new Brazilian and Chinese private companies have arisen. In Brazil, the area treated with M. anisopliae for spittlebug control alone is estimated to be approximately one million hectares in 2008, 75% of which was for control of spittlebugs in sugarcane plantations and the remainder for spittlebugs in pasture grass (primarily Brachiaria spp.) and other smaller programs. In China, the fungus Beauveria bassiana was used annually in 0.8–1.3 million ha until the 1980s. Several factors were important for the success of these programs, such as: governmental support (at least during the initial steps of biocontrol programs); availability of indigenous virulent fungal isolates; low-cost substrates for mass production; retail prices of mycoinsecticides lower than their chemical counterparts; and sale by contract which allows the products to be immediately available for use, rather than stored. In this report, we discuss the current biocontrol programs using insect fungi in these two developing countries, as well as the future and main challenges they must face to further encourage the adoption of mycoinsecticides.