Background Documents: Major Issues
The science of systematics began with taxonomy, the study of the identification, classification and nomenclature of organisms. For agriculturally damaging organisms, systematics and associated specimen collections grew as a reaction to the obvious need to identify the specific agents causing losses to agricultural crops and livestock. Even preventative recommendations depend upon an accurate assessment of the organisms that may be present or may be introduced into an area. Because the need for such collections and their associated data reaches across state boundaries, ARS often assumed responsibility for the development of the systematics of agriculturally important pests and pathogens, in part to facilitate accurate diagnostic and advisory services
The technological advances which drive 21st century agriculture has increased the need for systematics activities that directly benefit pest management and control, although resources for systematics in ARS have declined. First, the elimination of many broad spectrum biocides because of environmental reasons has created a frequent need to proactively identify the pests or pathogens present in a given situation, so that target-specific management practices such as the use of resistant germplasm can be recommended. Growing reliance upon integrated pest management, precision agriculture, expert systems, and other site-specific practices has further exacerbated this situation. Systematics research can be used to predict diverse aspects of the biology of the whole spectrum of agriculturally relevant organisms, such as their pathogenicity, destructiveness, survival, biocontrol potential, and efficacy as vectors. Finally, the numerous state and federal agencies served by the Beltsville systematics laboratories have substantially reduced their expert knowledge and collections, thereby creating an enhanced need for a national repository of systematics expertise. Beltsville systematics laboratories fill this enhanced need for a national repository of systematics expertise but struggle to grow and maintain unique resources and fill gaps in expertise.