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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


item Pemberton, Robert

Submitted to: XI Symposium on Biological Control of Weeds
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/15/2004
Publication Date: 12/12/2004
Citation: Pemberton, R.W. 2004. Biological control safety within temporal and cultural contexts. In: Proceedings of the XI International Symposium on Biological Control of Weeds. (Canberra, Australia April 2003) (eds Cullen, J.M., Briese, D.T. Kriticos, D.J., Lonsdale, W.M., Morin, L., and Scott, J.K.) pp.245-246. CSIRO Entomology, Canberra, Australia. (Conference Proceedings)

Interpretive Summary: The safety of biological control in the US and elsewhere is being debated because of the adoption of native species of introduced biological control agents. An analysis of biological control of weeds projects in the Continental U.S., Hawaii and the Caribbean conducted between 1902 and 1994 was made to define the patterns of native plant use and to examine whether the usage was predictable. Fourteen of 117 agents (112 of which are insects) established during that period, adopted native plants as developmental hosts. All but one case involves plants that are very closely related to the target weed. The exception was the adoption of a Hawaiian Myoporum sp. by a lace bug introduced for lantana control in 1902. The insect was introduced without testing and was presumed to be a lantana specialist but is not. Except for this lace bug, the cases of native plant use were predictable based on prerelease host specificity testing data and the known host plant ranges in the agents' native regions. This demonstrates that the host ranges of introduced biological control agents are very stable. The last agent to adopt a native plant was introduced in 1974. In contrast to the adoption of native plants by some agents, no agricultural or horticultural plants of value were adopted. Biological control practice has always been concerned about the potential use of economic plants and was fully successful in preventing use of these kinds of plants. The potential use of native plants, however, was not fully considered prior to the 1970s and 1980s. The change occurred in response to increase valuation of native plants by American culture. During this period Federal endangered species legislation was pasted to protect rare plants and there was a corresponding exponential growth in native plant societies, which now occur in most states. Modern biological control of weeds practice in the United States not only avoids harm to native plants but an essential tool to control invasive weeds which impact native plants and their communities.

Technical Abstract: No technical abstract in this proceedings chapter

Last Modified: 10/16/2017
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