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Agricultura Técnica

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RODRIGUEZ, Luis C et al. Biotic Factors and Concentration of Carminic Acid in Cochineal Insects (Dactylopius coccus Costa) (Homoptera: Dactylopiidae). Agric. Téc. [online]. 2005, vol.65, n.3, pp.323-329. ISSN 0365-2807.

The cochineal insect, Dactylopius coccus Costa (Homoptera: Dactylopiidae), grows on the prickly-pear cactus, Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Mill. (Cactaceae), and is exploited for its capacity to produce natural dyes based on carminic acid. Cochineal insects were introduced in Chile in 1989, and exports of dry cochineal began in 1994 and grew to cover approximately 15% of the world market. However, the current price of dry cochineal is nearing production costs; hence, it has become necessary to increase yields without increasing costs. This work reports on the effect of biotic factors on the concentration of carminic acid (CAC) in cochineal insects. CAC was positively affected by the density of cochineal insects around the insect, that was analyzed by plant age, and by the nutritional status of the plant, and was negatively affected by the age of the cladode. Additionally, CAC was significantly affected by season: 16.9% of dry weight in the Autumn and 19.1% in the Spring. This knowledge may be used in designing cultural strategies to increase carminic acid accumulation in cochineal insects.

Keywords : cochineal; carminic acid; natural dyes; prickly-pear cactus; haplodiploidy; genetic improvement of insects.

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