Thrips have been a problem on cotton in North America since the 1960s. We spoke with Chip Graham, SeedGrowth Technical Manager External Partnerships at Bayer, to find out more about Gaucho®, the long-lasting solution for this large problem.
Thrips have been a problem for growers for a long time, but what caused them to become such a concern within the USA?
Chip Graham: “Yes. Thrips have been around for a long time: Western flower thrips and tobacco thrips, in particular, are recognized as major pests in cotton. In the USA thrips only really became a major issue in the 1960s, when seasons started to shorten and avoiding late harvest became more important. In the past, when cotton had longer season maturing varieties, delayed harvest to late October or November would have been acceptable. But with the onset of fast-maturing short-season varieties, farmers needed to do everything they could to avoid delays to harvest, as even a week could make a huge difference. The delay in maturity that thrips could bring presented a real problem for the grower to reach his full yield potential.”
Aldicarb (marketed as Temik) was the leading product for thrips and nematode control from the early 1970s onwards. What changed over time that caused this product to be viewed as less effective?
Chip Graham: “Well, the make-up of American agriculture changed. It was no longer comprised of small farms with a large number of farmers; particularly in the southern US, it shifted to large, 5,000 to 10,000 acre farms. However, the employee base hadn’t grown alongside this. With technologies and economies of scale, one person is planting what three or four people would have planted a generation ago. For someone working on this scale, having to stop and reload granular materials takes a lot of time. When you are in the field, having to refill hoppers really slows you down.”
How can the protection methods against thrips be scaled to match this rapid growth in farmlands?
Chip Graham: “There’s an opportunity to have this treatment applied to the seed already when it goes into the hopper. There’s a great demand for a seed treatment, especially when you look at the user benefits it could provide, considering the speed growers need to plant at because they have such large fields. This is one of the reasons why Bayer created Gaucho. Gaucho was the first significant introduction into cotton from a seed treatment standpoint that had long-lasting activity against thrips and aphids in cotton.”
How long has Gaucho been on the market? What security can it provide to farmers?
Ralf Glaubitz: “Certification increases transparency and monitors the implementation of stewardship measures. And certification is proven by independent certification bodies. My opinion is that certification of seed treatment sites is the best way of demonstrating professionalism in this field – it’s the measure that ensures we all keep our license to sell. Certification has the potential to change the game!”
But can all these measures be implemented alone without any partners?
Chip Graham: “Gaucho was first introduced in the United States on cotton in 1995, and its use really began to take off in 1999 after the introduction of Gaucho Grande. While today the benefits of Gaucho make it the obvious solution of choice, it, in fact, took some getting used to. It acts as an antifeedant and slows reproduction, rather than simply killing thrips. Customers initially saw that there were still thrips on cotton and assumed the treatment was not working – but in fact, the adult thrips weren’t feeding, reproducing, or causing damage.
After a couple of years of testing, the results were clear enough to show the efficacy of Gaucho. We began to evaluate treatments based on a ‘damage scale’ rather than just counting the thrips. By that metric, Gaucho was a clear winner. Farmers were amazed that it could still have activity against thrips a month after planting. And unlike with an in-furrow application, there was no danger of ‘missing’ a row because of a mechanical failure, leaving it susceptible to thrips injury. Because it was applied to the seeds, you knew the entire field would be covered every time.”
Aside from the ability to easily apply Gaucho across a large farm, what other benefits does it offer farmers? Why is it the right choice?
Chip Graham: “Gaucho is renowned for its comprehensive range of beneficial effects on crops – it’s very rare that a seed treatment planted in the fall can affect foliar disease in the spring, but Gaucho manages spring infections of BYDV in wheat as a fall applied seed treatment. The efficacy of Gaucho met all expectations based on the research work that went into the product prior to launch. Where it has exceeded expectations is in its longevity. Few would have predicted that it would still be a market leader, a quarter of a century after its introduction. Thrips control is still crucial today – 80-90% of cotton in North America is treated with some type of thrips product at planting – and Gaucho is still a leading product in this market.
Gaucho is also safe to the environment and safe for humans. It is one of the first environmentally friendly insecticide compounds to be registered in North America, easing many grower’s concerns.”
There’s often fear when it comes to pest treatments that there will inevitably be resistance build up. How does Gaucho combat this and what does the future look like for Bayer in terms of cotton protection?
Chip Graham: “Bayer has developed a new Bt cotton technology, named ThryvOn, which gives cotton an additional level of protection against thrips and plant bugs. As this technology moves closer to full market roll-out, there is the potential to combine ThryvOn seeds with Gaucho treatments, to get the best out of the technology and to prevent any potential resistance build-up.
As interest in seed treatments grows, Bayer is always working with customers, researchers and partners to increase our knowledge and answer any technical questions.”