A persistent problem in weed biocontrol is how to reliably predict whether a plant that supports development in laboratory host-specificity testing will be utilized in field conditions, and this is undoubtedly preventing releases of safe and effective agents. Moreover, the potential for unanticipated undesirable indirect effects of weed biocontrol on ecological networks has raised concerns by policy-makers and the general public. The key to minimizing risks of non-target impacts is prioritizing candidate agents that are both host-specific and effective, such that the number of agents required to bring the weed under control is minimized. As a consequence both the weed and its biocontrol agents become minor components of the local biota. Here we review recent attempts in New Zealand to improve the predictive ability of host-range testing, to avoid potentially safe and effective agents being rejected. Research in New Zealand aimed at predicting whether an agent is likely to experience enemy-release (i.e. reduced parasitism and predation) could assist agent prioritization, potentially making biocontrol both environmentally safer and more effective.
BioControl – Springer Journals
Published: Aug 8, 2017
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