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Spittlebug Implicated in Spread of Leaf Scald in Sugarcane


By Ed Ricciuti
It’s a case of good intentions toward the environment gone more than a bit wrong. Brazilian growers have stopped fouling the air with smoke by burning the leaves and tops of sugarcane, called “trash,” before the sugar-bearing stalk is harvested. Instead, they have been letting trash lie the field for mulch and compost.

But, by doing so, they appear to have created prime habitat for an insect pest that threatens their crops.

The spittlebug Mahanarva fimbriolata wreaks havoc upon sugarcane by injecting toxins that “burn” the leaves as it sucks sap from the plant xylem. A new study published in December 2023 in the Journal of Insect Science, however, shows that M. fimbriolata also spreads a devastating plant disease, leaf scald.

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