NE1032: Biological Control of Arthropod Pests and Weeds
Statement of Issues and JustificationBiological control of pests has a rich history in the USA with key successes dating back over 125 years. Realizing that pests and management efforts cross state boundaries, three of the four regional associations of State Agricultural Experiment Stations have long maintained multi-state research projects in biological control of arthropods and weeds. This new northeast regional project builds upon our national expertise in biological control and specifically addresses pest complexes and research opportunities that are unique our region. Biological control refers to applied efforts to manage pest problems through importation, conservation or augmentation of natural enemies and it is generally distinguished from natural control: that which is provided by unmanaged indigenous natural enemies in the native or introduced range of a pest species. Non-native plants and insects introduced into North America generally come without the natural enemies that keep them in check in their native habitats. Freed from these natural controls, these species often increase in numbers and distribution, adversely affecting the environment, the economy, and human health (Pimentel et al. 2000). Classical Biological Control, a deliberate process whereby these pests are reacquainted with their effective natural enemies, offers a potential for permanent control of these pests over widespread areas (Van Driesche 1994). On a world-wide basis, we are approaching 200 pest species controlled through biological control, with economic benefits estimated at $30 to $100 for each dollar invested (Hoy 1994).
There is no shortage of weed and arthropod pests in the northeast. Despite advances in pest management including selective pesticides, use of behavior modifying chemicals, resistant varieties and transgenic plants, arthropods and weeds continue their damage in our agricultural and natural systems. Biological control, used singly or in combination with other management options, should be the centerpiece of successful pest management programs (Van Driesche and Bellows 1996). In recent years, researchers in the northeast have worked with many types of biological control agents including insects, mites, parasitoids, and pathogens in successfully managing key pests including gypsy moths, purple loosestrife, birch leafminer, mites on apples and vegetables, Lepidoptera on fruit, alfalfa weevil, Mexican bean beetle, whiteflies in greenhouses, etc. These successes have generally involved cooperative efforts by scientists from several states and agencies.
Interdependencies: Those attributes which make Classical Biological Control so attractive, also require careful consideration of target selection, agent discovery, and pre-and post-release evaluation of agents (Mason et al. 2005). These issues generally require regional input and cooperative research over a range of environmental conditions. Individual agricultural experiment stations in the northeast seldom have the resources or expertise to conduct a complete program in Classical Biological Control and thus we have a long history of cooperation among states and with scientists from USDA-ARS, USDA-APHIS, USFS, state departments of agriculture, and specialists in foreign countries.
Success in developing and implementing biological control programs is closely linked to the development of effective communication and coordination of programs. The focus of this multi-state research project is to enhance biological control of arthropod pests and weeds in the northeast through increased collaboration among practitioners in the region. The umbrella of a northeast multi-state project provides the framework for dialog on pest target selection and pooling of expertise and resources to allow coordinated research and outreach programs.
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