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mai 09, 2018
Innovation and technology

Brazilian company develops technology to rid plantations of ants

Brazilian forest products company Fibria has implemented the use of innovative monitoring and control technologies to combat ant infestations on the country’s plantations. Fibria professionals visit the plantations and inspect the land, recording information on a tablet or smartphone, allowing for the creation of a detailed picture of ant infestations and form maps and databases.

One of the main benefits of this technology is that it makes measures used to combat insects much more efficient. "Our equipment have on-board computers for precise agriculture,” says Edmilson Bitti, Fibria’s coordinator of forest protection. "With this, we can go through the forest and see exactly where the ants are, where we should place bait and if there has been any deviation, be it by natural or human interference."

In accordance with Sinval Silveira Neto, senior professor of agricultural entomology and pest control at the Luiz de Queiroz Higher School of Agriculture (Esalq), “there is no great difficulty in controlling [infestations], the problem is finding the ants' nests,” an issue with which Fibria’s innovative technology assists greatly.

Once the nest locations have been ascertained, infestations are controlled by using granulated formicides as bait, or thermo-nebulizing agents.
Fibria, which is the world leader in producing eucalyptus cellulose, first implanted the system in its Aracruz plantation in the state of Espirito Santo, and it is now being used across all of the company’s locations in Brazil. By adopting this technology, Fibria has seen great progress in the efficiency, quality and efficacy of its production. Moreover, it has served as a measure to cut costs, as when infestations are well monitored and control, the need for costly interventions is greatly reduced. “On average, at Fibria, based on georeferenced forest monitoring, around 55% of our areas do not need annual interventions to control ant infestations, which is a common practice across most of Brazil," explained Bitti. “The technology contributes to improve management and guarantee operational performance." 

Leafcutter ants (of the genera Atta and Acromyrmex) are one of the most consistent pests faced by Brazilian farmers, as they attack almost all species of plants, eating their leaves and sometimes causing entire trees to die. Estimations from the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa) suggest annual agricultural losses from plagues and disease amount to 55 billion Brazilian Reals, but innovative solutions such as that implemented by Fibria are helping to reduce these figures and allow for more efficient and effective production.