SLU news

Theme Day on biological control

Published: 06 November 2012

Geoff Gurr, keynote speaker from Australia, showed preliminary results suggesting that biological control can be just as effective as chemical. The presentation took place when Centre for Biological Control (CBC) in collaboration with “Area Plant Protection Biology”, “Partnership Alnarp” and the Swedish Board of Agriculture, on 1st of November organized a well-attended theme day on biological control at the SLU campus in Alnarp.

During the day, the Swedish Chemicals Agency (KEMI) told about the process of getting biological control methods registered. The Swedish Board of Agriculture reported progress with implementation of IPM (Integrated Pest Management) and furthermore, current research on both horticultural and agricultural crops was presented.

Biological control – part of the solution
The keynote speaker Geoff Gurr from Charles Sturt University in Australia has for many years done research on biological control. Geoff gave a much appreciated speech focusing on of how ecosystem services such as biological control, can contribute to a sustainable development of agriculture. The lecture began with a description of the challenges that agriculture is facing, for example a population increase of 2 to 3 billion people by 2050 and how to feed this increasing population in an ecologically sustainable manner.

Chemical control must be reduced
An important part of the solution, according to Geoff Gurr, is to reduce the use of chemical pesticides. Despite increased awareness of the negative effects of chemical pesticides, the total use of them in a global perspective has doubled since the 1970s. It is therefore important to demonstrate the importance of biological control provided by nature, as a so-called ecosystem service, and how it is adversely affected by chemical control.

Geoff referred to scientific studies quantifying the value of biological control on a worldwide basis to 0.47 trillion U.S. dollar per year. By favouring natural enemies of pests in different ways, the biological control may become even more efficient. This has Geoff studied in a research project with the objective to reduce the problems of a serious insect pest in Asian rice farming.

Promotion of natural enemies can be very effective
Large-scale plantations of monocultures are often environments with low biodiversity where natural enemies have difficulties to thrive. This is because important resources are lacking, e.g. flowering plants that give the natural enemies food in the form of nectar and pollen, or may contribute to alternative preys near the cultivated crop.

The project studies which native Asian plants that are best suited to benefit natural enemies of the harmful insects and the impact of these plants on the levels of damage in the fields. Preliminary results suggest that these measures can be as effective against insect pests as chemical insecticide usage while the ecosystem is in better balance.