Submitted to: XI Symposium on Biological Control of Weeds
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: August 1, 2002
Publication Date: April 1, 2003
Citation: BALCIUNAS, J.K. ARE MONO-SPECIFIC AGENTS NECESSARILY SAFE? THE NEED FOR PRE-RELEASE ASSESSMENT OF PROBABLE IMPACT OF CANDIDATE BIOCONTROL AGENTS, WITH SOME SAMPLES.. XI SYMPOSIUM ON BIOLOGICAL CONTROL OF WEEDS. 2003. p. 38. Technical Abstract: Historically, weed biocontrol practitioners have predicted the safety of candidate agents from the results of host-specificity assessments. However, even a highly specific agent can disrupt ecosystem pathways in unpredictable ways, especially if it becomes abundant on its target, but fails to reduce the weed's populations. I argue that we should strive to release agents that are not only narrowly host specific, but that have also demonstrated their ability to damage the target weed. Usually, these pre-release assessments of a candidate agents potential impact can be conducted most easily under field conditions in the native range of the weed. I discuss the results of two 'insecticidal exclusion trials' that I conducted in Australia, the native home of melaleuca trees. But these impact assessments can also be performed under containment conditions in a quarantine. I also discuss the results of two 'dosage' trials with a gall-making fly that is being considered as a biological control agent for Cape ivy.