Cotton plantations are highly important in Egypt, covering between 400 000 and 500 000 ha, 1/6 of all cultivated land. These crops are a vital source of foreign currency revenue through exports, and their state of health is therefore permanently under close surveillance. Cotton plants are indeed the target of a leaf-eating insect, the noctuid Spodoptera littoralis (Lepidoptera), or Egyptian Cotton Leafworm.
Known to be the main pest of cotton, it also attacks the leaves of cereal crops and lucerne which is the principal fodder crop used in Egypt. This noctuid is one of the most intensively studied insects in that country. The problem that arises concerns how to eradicate populations of this pest without massive use of chemical pesticides and thus minimize damage to the environment, and in such a way that crop yields are not jeopardized.
The solution put forward by researchers from the IRD, the University of Cairo and their French and Canadian partners (1) lies in the domestication of an insect-infecting virus isolated in Egypt in 1995, Densovirus MlDNV (2). This organism could be used locally as an element of biocontrol programmes.
Marie Guillaume | alfa
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