Biocontrol: Who We Are
Who We Are
Program Statement: Fiscal Year 2000/2001
Plant Health and Pest Prevention Services
Integrated Pest Control Branch
The Biological Control Program is an integral component of the Plant Health and Pest Prevention Service's (PHPPS) Pest Prevention Program. The program helps to minimize the economic and environmental impact of noxious weed and insect species through the implementation of biological control programs throughout the state. Implementation requires the rearing of appropriate natural enemies and their release and evaluation in agricultural, natural and urban environments.
Definition of Biological Control
Biological control is the use of natural enemies to reduce densities of insect pests and weeds. Releases of natural enemies may be made once resulting in permanent establishment, or it may be necessary to continue to make augmentative releases. It is a global scientific strategy for managing pests that has been conducted for over 100 years and has resulted in many successful programs. The reason biological control is so effective and safe is that a high degree of host-specificity for the targets is sought before a potential control organism can be released into the environment. This protocol ensures that effects on nontarget species are minimized and that the agents are likely to be efficacious.
There are several steps involved in implementing biological control. Each step in the process is linked with previous steps and requires a strong scientific base. These steps are as follows:
- STEP 1. Accurate identification of the pest species and confirmation of the pest as a target for biological control.
- STEP 2. Surveys for natural enemies (generally insects, mites, nematodes and diseases) are conducted in the area of origin of the pest (usually overseas).
- STEP 3. Determine host-specificity of potential control organisms to assess impact on targets and nontargets and environmental safety.
- STEP 4. Following approval from federal and state regulatory officials, biological control agents are shipped to a domestic quarantine facility where they are examined to confirm species identity and to determine whether they are free of parasites and diseases.
- STEP 5. These agents are tested in field plots to determine that the agents do reduce densities of the target pest and do not have adverse effects on nontargets. Once this small scale testing is completed, appropriate natural enemies can be mass-reared to high numbers and released at field sites established by county biologists.
- STEP 6. Once released, each biological control agent is evaluated for establishment, spread, impact on the target species, and impact on nontarget species. Careful, long-term evaluation studies provide scientific data that are used to improve current and future programs. Additional releases may be made in an augmentative manner in systems where long-term stability of the natural enemies is not feasible.
Despite the effectiveness of the PHPPS's Pest Prevention Program, new pests will become established.
Many of these pests will cause significant agricultural, natural and urban losses at pest population levels where current conventional control methods are prohibitive in cost or lack effectiveness.
The costs of controlling these pests utilizing conventional pesticides will continue to increase and it is quite possible that some widely used pesticides may be found unacceptable due to environmental or health and food safety considerations.
Historically, biological control has provided cost-effective and environmentally benign long-term control of pests.
Each year in California, at least five new exotic insects, as well as additional noxious weed species, become established. Eradication of some of these species is not always feasible, due to either the rapidly expanding distribution of the pest or constraints regarding the tools available to attempt eradication. Many of these exotic invasive species cause significant economic damage to the agricultural industry of the state, as well as negatively impacting the urban and natural environments. Conventional pesticide treatments are not always practical, and therefore, alternative methods to chemical treatment of exotic and other noxious pest species must be employed to protect our agricultural economy and the urban and natural environment.
Biological control provides a proven long-term regional solution to mitigate the economic impact of some agricultural pests. Establishment of natural enemies of exotic insect and weed pests can provide a permanent reduction in pest population densities and substantially reduce their economic impact. For example, since the introduction and establishment of a natural enemy of the Ash Whitefly in 1989, populations of this pest have been kept at low levels resulting in substantial annual savings in pest control costs. Generally, successful biological control programs result in benefit-cost ratios exceeding 100 to one.
The Biological Control Program was established during the 1973/1974 fiscal year to develop alternatives to traditional control and eradication methods used by the PHPPS.
Biological control technology provides a response to the increasing public demand for a change from conventional pesticides to biological techniques for control and management of certain pests. The Biological Control Program integrates with the mission of the PHPPS through the development and implementation of biological control and related techniques to be used independently for controlling pests, or integrated with other strategies to control pests.
There is no other program in the state that currently allocates all of its resources and expertise towards applied biological control. The University of California devotes its primary efforts to basic biological control research. It is not economically profitable for private industry to develop classical biological control programs. Federal agencies do not have an implementation network in California to facilitate applied biological control programs.
Statutory authority for the program is provided by the following sections of the Food and Agricultural Code:
Section 403: The Department shall prevent the introduction and spread of injurious insect or animal pests, plant diseases, and noxious weeds.
Section 405: (a) With the prior approval of the Department of Fish and Game and the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, the Department of Food and Agriculture and the Department of Pesticide Regulation may reproduce or distribute biological control organisms that are not detrimental to the public health and safety which are known to be useful in reducing or preventing plant or animal damage due to pests or diseases.
Section 431: The Department shall collect and preserve books, pamphlets, periodicals, and other documents which contain information that relates to agriculture.
Section 432: The Department shall collect and prepare statistics, charts, films, photographs, and other illustrative or exhibit material and information which shows the actual condition and progress of agriculture in this state and elsewhere.
Section 433: The Department shall correspond with agricultural societies, colleges, schools, the commissioners, and with all other persons who are necessary to secure the best results to agriculture in this state.
Section 434: The Department shall issue and cause to be printed and distributed to the commissioners, and to such other persons as it may deem proper, bulletins, charts, photographs or other illustrative material or statements which contain all the information which is best adapted to advance the interest, business, and development of agriculture in the state. The Department may broadcast such portions of the illustrative material or statements as are adapted to give effect to this code. It may exhibit or display such data and material as have been collected or prepared and may incur expenses which are necessarily incidental to the exhibit or display of such data and material.
Section 461: The Department may conduct surveys or investigations of any nursery, orchard, vineyard, agricultural commodity, agricultural appliance, farm, or other premises within the state liable to be infested or infected with any pest as defined in Section 5006 or disease, including any infectious, transmissible, and contagious diseases of livestock and poultry, for the purpose of detecting the presence of, or determining the status of, the pest or disease.
Section 482: The Secretary may enter into cooperative agreements with individuals, associations, boards of supervisors, and with departments, bureaus, boards, or commissions of this state or of the United States for the purpose of eradicating, controlling or destroying any infectious disease or pest within this state. He or she may enter into cooperative agreements with boards of supervisors for the purpose of administering and enforcing this code.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture's (Department) mission is to serve the citizens of the state by promoting California agriculture and fostering public confidence in the marketplace through the development, implementation and communication of sound public policies and programs. The Biological Control Program plays an integral role in supporting this mission by colonizing new natural enemies for suppression of exotic pests thereby providing economic and environmental benefits to all the citizens of California. Biological control also serves as an environmentally friendly alternative for the control of noxious pests.
The Biological Control Program also benefits the PHPPS's Pest Prevention programs. It provides information and consultation on the biology and potential for biological control of serious pests. Such information assists the PHPPS in fulfilling the Department's responsibility to prevent the introduction and spread of injurious insect or animal pests, plant diseases and noxious weeds. As a result of this interaction, the PHPPS can make decisions based on the best available information, balancing the need for controlling serious agricultural pests with pesticides, while protecting the environment from the adverse impact of these products. The inclusion of biological control alternatives in Pest Prevention programs helps to ensure a continuous, plentiful supply of agricultural products that are safe for the consumer, the environment and agricultural workers.
The Biological Control Program directly benefits the general public and consumers because it implements pest control strategies that produce minimal disruption of the environment, and reduce pesticide use. These efforts reduce the potential incidence of direct and indirect exposure of people as well as the natural environment to pesticides.
Several partnerships have been formed with agencies interested in biological control of pests. Cooperative program operations are a direct indication of the wide spectrum of interest and importance in biological control programs. Cooperative relationships reinforce communication and increase public confidence regarding our commitment to biological control.
Description and Functions
The program is comprised of 14.1 permanent scientific and technical and 3.7 temporary employees. The permanent staff has expertise in planning, organizing and implementing biological control programs. In Fiscal Year 1999/2000, the program was funded at a level of approximately $1.4 million. The General Fund accounted for 90 percent of this total, supplemented by federal funds. An additional $750,000 was provided through Assembly Bill 1232 to support Glassy-winged Sharpshooter (GWSS)/Pierce's Disease (PD) Research. Program activities are organized within a framework of functions and the procedures we engage in to perform them. Each project is ultimately directed toward meeting our mission, which is to protect California's agricultural, natural and urban systems through the use of natural enemies.
FUNCTION: Import and Establish Effective Natural Enemies
Procedure: Survey indigenous natural enemies.
Procedure: Participate in foreign exploration.
Procedure: Determine systematics and biogeography of pest and natural enemies.
Procedure: Cooperate in importation, quarantine and pre-release studies.
Procedure: Develop methods and mass rear natural enemies.
Procedure: Release, establish and distribute natural enemies.
Procedure: Evaluate efficacy and study ecological/physiological basis for interactions.
FUNCTION: Conserve Natural Enemies to Increase Biological Control of Target Pests
Procedure: Identify potential predatory/prey and parasite/host associations; confirm identification of species involved in pest problem.
Procedure: Identify and assess factors potentially disruptive to biological control.
Procedure: Implement and evaluate habitat modification, horticultural practices and pest suppression tactics to conserve natural enemy activity.
FUNCTION: Augment Natural Enemies to Increase Biological Control
Procedure: Identify and study biological characteristics of candidate natural enemies (species and biotypes).
Procedure: Conduct experimental releases to assess feasibility.
Procedure: Develop methods for rearing, storing and release of natural enemies.
Procedure: Release natural enemies and assess their biological impact.
FUNCTION: Evaluate Environmental and Economic Impacts of Biological Control
Procedure: Evaluate the environmental impacts of biological control.
Procedure: Evaluate the economic impacts of biological control.
FUNCTION: Interact with clients and cooperators
Procedure: Develop and make presentations.
Procedure: Generate publications.
Procedure: Provide training and workshops.
Measures of Effectiveness
- Number of new projects initiated.
- Number of new species deemed appropriate for introduction on an annual basis.
- Number of organisms being reared per target species.
- Number of collections made, training workshops convened, number of releases made by program and cooperator staff, percentage of releases that resulted in establishment.
- Techniques developed for rearing, release and evaluations.
- Number of completed study protocols, including data collection, analyses and interim and final reports including peer reviewed publications.
- Reduction in pest population, density and impact.
Expected Output for 2000
GWSS - GWSS integrated control activities and research have been addressed through the Integrated Pest Control (IPC) Branch. The entire program has been coordinated through the PHPPS Director and the Branch Chief. The Progam Supervisor and the Supervising Senior Environmental Research Scientist have been heavily involved in the overall operation of the statewide program. This effort began in August 1999 and continues today and is a major research, pest detection, pest prevention and pest control program to slow the spread of GWSS from southern counties to northern counties and to develop pest management strategies for both the GWSS and PD.
Silverleaf whitefly - Continue monitoring releases of parasites and predators and make additional releases into agricultural and urban settings. Continue assessing new exotic natural enemies and plant species in refuge plots. Make large-scale releases of a new parasite in the San Joaquin Valley in areas with high infestations of whiteflies on cotton. This work is cooperative with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the county agricultural commissioners (CACs).
Silverleaf whitefly in citrus - Monitor citrus orchards and adjacent cotton where releases of parasites were made in 1998. Make releases of a new parasite in the same orchards in fall 1999.
Cotton aphid - Evaluate at least three introduced natural enemies for effective cotton aphid density reduction in cotton, melons, citrus and non-crop plants. This work will be done in cooperation with USDA-ARS, the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) and the University of Arkansas. Obtain permits and bring in additional natural enemies; investigate the movement of cotton aphid and natural enemies among habitats.
Giant whitefly - Continue monitoring population densities and spread of both parasites and predators; release parasites into other locations. Work continues with the San Diego CAC's support.
Vine mealybug - Determine biology of the vine mealybug (VMB), Planococcus ficus, on grapes in the Central Valley. Investigate the effect of ants on the mealybug populations. Determine native parasitoids attacking VMB. Release exotic parasitoids and determine establishment and overwintering success. This work is a cooperative effort with the University of California, Riverside (UCR) and UCCE.
Lygus bug - Survey Central California for species of Lygus and any extant parasitoids. International Organization of Biological Control and USDA-ARS will collect Lygus parasites in Europe and ship them to California. We will measure the ability of these parasites to oviposit on Lygus hesperus and release them into field cages to measure overwintering success.
Ash whitefly - Continue limited monitoring of whitefly and parasite population dynamics.
Squash bug - Continue monitoring parasite release sites. Work with cooperators to expand regions of parasite distribution.
Red Imported Fire Ant - Develop position paper on red imported fire ant.
Yellow starthistle - Import Larinus curtus for release in California, monitor release sites for establishment, agents will be provided by Oregon Department of Agriculture; measure impact and regional effectiveness of established natural enemies: Bangasternus orientalis, Urophora sirunaseva and Eustenopus villosus; continue distribution of Eustenopus villosus through training workshops for county biologists and personnel from other state and federal agencies; continue to evaluate impact of Chaetorellia succinea, an accidentally introduced natural enemy of yellow starthistle (YST); continue to evaluate impact of indigenous pathogens on YST seedlings; continue cooperative study with University of California, Davis, on the combined impact of herbicide treatments and biological control of YST.
Russian thistle - Continue to support foreign exploration of natural enemies in Asia and Northern Africa by USDA-ARS scientists; develop list of native and agricultural plants for host specificity testing of potential biological control organisms; develop partnerships with other state and federal agencies to fund host specificity testing of potential biological control agents.
Scotch thistle - Continue pre-release field studies of plant population biology and reproduction; collect seeds and propagate native and commercial plants for host specificity testing of potential biological control agents.
Diffuse knapweed - Monitor release sites for build-up of established natural enemies; collect and distribute natural enemies locally; release new natural enemies when available.
Spotted knapweed - Monitor release site for build-up of established natural enemies; perform impact studies of established natural enemies; release new natural enemies when available.
Squarrose knapweed - Continue to release new natural enemies; monitor release sites for establishment; agents will be provided by the Oregon Department of Agriculture.
Bull thistle - Continue to monitor release sites for establishment of Urophora stylata; make additional releases of this agent to ensure establishment; agent will be provided by the Oregon Department of Agriculture.
Purple loosestrife - Continue to release Galerucella calmariensis and Galerucella pusilla; monitor release sites for establishment; perform impact studies of these agents, agents will be provided by the Oregon Department of Agriculture.
Purple starthistle - Continue to release new natural enemies; monitor release sites for establishment; continue survey of indigenous natural enemies attacking this plant in California; agents will be provided by the Oregon Department of Agriculture.
Musk thistle - Obtain approval and release Puccinia carduorum, an exotic rust disease, at one site in Northern California; monitor release site for establishment; agent will be provided by USDA-ARS, Foreign Disease Introduction Laboratory, Fort Dietrick, Maryland.
Biological control projects are evaluated periodically by the program manager to determine the extent that they meet the intended mission.
A report of project activities is submitted weekly to the program manager and reviewed by the program supervisor and branch chief, and an annual summary is prepared for the PHPPS. Additionally, a professional annual report is produced and disseminated to colleagues and other interested persons.
Program activities are scrutinized by the program supervisor at regular intervals during staff meetings and all projects are thoroughly reviewed by the program supervisor at an annual meeting.
- Work cooperatively among ourselves and with others.
- Value biological control as an important component of pest management.
- Be professional in science and service.
To be a recognized standard for biological control:
- By increasing our level of participation and innovation in the introduction, establishment and use of natural enemies;
- By establishing appropriate natural enemies leading to the successful control of pests in California's agricultural, urban, and natural systems.
To protect California's agricultural, natural and urban systems through the use of natural enemies.
Key Result Area I
Improve the Biological Control Program's Communication and Outreach
The Biological control program needs to increase it's visibility within the PHPPS and the Department, as well as with our clients, customers and agency personnel outside the Department. Many of the functions of the program are consistent with the Department's involvement in protecting the environment and ensuring food safety. Increased program communication and outreach will interface with the Department's outreach campaign.
Increased visibility can be addressed through the following procedures:
- More frequent interactions with PHPPS personnel to discuss issues and projects.
- More involvement by program manager in departmental planning activities.
- Continue to provide the Office of Public Affairs with information highlighting program activities.
- Press releases.
- Displays for fairs and expositions
- 4. Increase use of program logo.
- In annual report.
- Invite key departmental personnel to meet with program staff.
- Increased attendance at meetings and conferences.
- California Conference on Biological Control.
- Sustainable Agriculture conference.
- Weed, soil, water and commodity or grower group conferences and meetings.
- Sponsor informational seminars or workshops.
- Continue weed biological control workshops.
- Maintain a Biological Control Program webpage.
Key Result Area II
Enhance Core Competency Areas of the Biological Control Program
The Biological Control Program continually strives to improve the efficiency with which it performs in core competency areas. Our most critical core competency areas include rearing, distribution and evaluation of natural enemies, and our interactions with colleagues in the Department and other agencies. Continued improvement in these areas can be enhanced by implementing the following procedures:
- Increase permanent support staff to support all core competency areas.
- To enhance our core competency in rearing.
- Locate and obtain additional space to meet the following needs: greenhouse space for insect rearing, host plant production and maintenance of pure cultures; laboratory space for insect rearing, plant pathogen culturing, processing field samples; and low-level containment for host testing of weed and insect bioagents.
- 3. To enhance our core competency in distribution of natural enemies.
- Use Global Positioning System (GPS)/Geographical Information System (GIS) technology to track the distribution of both insect and weed bioagents. The technology would be used as a tool to help map areas with the natural enemies present and identify deficiencies in the coverage of the natural enemies.
- Develop and produce better teaching aids for use in workshops and field days that deal with distribution of natural enemies. The teaching aids may include such things as handouts describing the life cycle of the agents, handouts with "instructions for care" of the natural enemies, CD-ROMS with similar information, and links from our home page (Biocontrol's home page) with similar information.
- Investigate alternate shipping methods for the natural enemies. With the United Parcel Service strike this past year it became evident that total reliance on Federal Express was not in our best interests. We need to look more carefully into air shipments and alternate carriers and investigate the costs associated with the alternate methods.
- To enhance our core competency in evaluation of natural enemies.
- Increase our training in methods of natural enemy evaluation. This could include such things as traveling to other laboratories to learn techniques of immunology and molecular biology, traveling to meetings to hear the latest methods discussed, and having scientists visit at our facility to teach us the techniques.
- Develop additional partnerships (or cooperative projects) to increase the rigor of our evaluations.
- Include more GPS/GIS and remote sensing technology in our evaluation process. This could be done as part of the partnerships outlined above.
- Increase our consideration of the economics of our solutions to pest problems. This could be done with us doing the economic work or having it as a part of the partnerships outlined above.
- Increase our emphasis on pre-release evaluation. This includes not just testing of weed bioagents, but also investigating more fully insect bioagents. This is in response to several factors such as problems with non-target effects and the cost of bringing in new agents.
- To enhance our core competency in cooperation with other agencies (See the plan outlined under Key Result Area VI).
Key Result Area III
Resources are needed to take on new projects, repair existing facilities and equipment, upgrade old equipment, and acquire new insect rearing space. New resources include:
- New or alternative funding sources. Pursue competitive grants, explore new funding sources through the World Wide Web (competitive or herwise), tie strategic plan to departmental plan and write Budget Change Proposal.
- Shared equipment and facilities. Contact people at the Plant Pest Diagnostic Lab who work in the molecular genetics laboratory.
- Increase permanent technical staff.
- New building and greenhouse.
Key Result Area IV
Establish a Role in Quarantine for Biological Control Introductions
Quarantine is an essential component in the introduction of natural enemies. Because quarantine is the filter for the final product (the bio-agent), it becomes a major determinant in the direction of our program and speed of results. The biological control needs of California are often different than those of other states and, therefore, their resolution should not be dependent upon changes in federal programs or their emphasis. We therefore need to clarify and expand our role in this area.
- Construction of a federally certified quarantine facility.
- Pursue use of existing certified quarantine facilities (University of California, Davis, UCR, ARS-Albany and European Biological Control Laboratory).
- Have permanent, allocated space in the facility versus use on as-needed basis.
- Staffing requirements (permanent or as needed).
- Use our own staff or contract the work.
- Evaluate use of non-traditional quarantines.
- Use of "Meadowview" and North B facilities to examine the host-specificity of agents already locally present, e.g. host testing artichoke fly which did not receive host testing for distribution but is locally abundant.
- Growing plant species for subsequent host preference tests.
- Defining the role and constraints on our containment room. Should it be improved and then apply for recertification.
- Increase involvement in development of regulations.
- Have input into criteria for quarantine evaluation, i.e. guidelines for host testing (e.g. inclusion of California natives in testing).
Key Result Area V
Expand Our Role in Foreign Exploration
The tools necessary for the Biological Control Program to perform its core competencies at a high level are imported, exotic natural enemies. The flow of these organisms needs to continue and be enhanced. The number of species imported into California each year can be increased by:
- Developing funding for program and cooperator foreign exploration. Define areas in the program budget that can be used to support out-of-country travel by program staff. Program and branch staff can apply for grant money and obtain funding through a Budget Change Proposal linked to the Department and Division strategic plan.
- Influencing the direction of foreign exploration. Program staff can join working groups that are seeking exotic natural enemies for new biological control efforts. Attend meetings where foreign explorers are present; document severity of problems to California agriculture; and write contracts with foreign explorers for unique California problems.
- Increasing cooperation with others conducting foreign exploration. Program staff can provide expertise in post-release evaluation and monitoring of new biocontrol agents. They can report on findings at meetings attended for foreign exploration cooperators.
- Taking advantage of the link between foreign exploration and quarantine activities.
Key Result Area VI
Improve and Develop Partnerships
The Biological Control Program strives to improve and expand our partnerships to meet the needs of future projects. For this improvement and expansion to occur, communication at all levels, both within the program and Department, and with cooperating agencies must be stressed.
Improving and expanding partnerships can be addressed by:
- Improving existing partnerships.
- Improve internal communication - within the Program, Branch, Division and Department.
- Encourage more participation by existing cooperators.
- Improve external communication with our cooperators and partners.
- Develop new partnerships for future projects.
- Write documents aimed at several audiences such as our cooperators and the general public, that describe each current project and give a good indication of how the Biological Control Program does business. We hope that this type of communication will foster a better understanding in our cooperators of the role(s) that the program can play in projects.
- The above documents can be formatted as handouts, or available from our own program webpage as hot links. These documents should be aimed more at the general public.
- Develop better communication with headquarters to get information on issues of concern so that we can identify those agencies with which we should be establishing partnerships in a timely manner for future projects.
- Examine current cooperator list and identify agencies with whom we can expand our partnerships.
- Joint use of facilities and resources.
- Participate in the establishment and maintenance of nursery sites for insect and weed bioagents that are part of a multi-agency effort. The contribution can be through such things as money, labor, or supplies (i.e., natural enemies, plants).
- Give careful consideration to the resources that we have and that our cooperators have and see if there is a meaningful way they could be shared. The sharing of resources must be equitable and necessary. This would also require extremely good communication both internally and externally.
- Publicize partnerships
- Emphasize the partnerships to headquarters.
- Advertise the cooperation in media releases, oral presentations, written publications, and on the web page. Make sure that this advertisement is prominent and sincere. This sort of advertisement also shows that the Biological Control Program is a vital part of the network of workers in California who are working to mitigate pests influencing agriculture, food safety, urban areas, and natural areas.
- Within the program, recognize your cooperators by name and affiliation in your weekly staff notes.
Key Result Area VII
Incorporate New technologies
Development, adoption, and use of new technologies will increase efficiency of staff efforts at importing and establishing new natural enemies. Some of these new technologies are:
- Insect and plant identification using molecular biology. Develop partnerships with others who have molecular biology laboratories and equipment. Obtain new funding to pay for equipment, reagents, and trained specialists in molecular genetics.
- GPS/GIS - Incorporate location information (latitude/longitude) in insect and weed projects for planning and evaluation of field studies. Purchase hand-held GPS receivers for use by personnel. Provide information to GIS lab in specified format for inclusion in IPC database.
- Program Webpage. Develop and maintain a program homepage.
- Greenhouse environmental technology. Setup and configure equipment for either downloading weather data or measuring and recording it in the greenhouse. Buy new, portable weather recording units for new greenhouses and growth chambers.
- Automated data acquisition and input.
- Use teleform software for scanning data
- Remote sensing and analysis.
Key Result Area VIII
Pursue New Project Areas and Directions
New projects and directions can compete for resources with existing projects and therefore should reflect the mission of the Department and the program and have scientific merit. Within that context, new projects may also have merit by addressing needs not met by other agencies and through building new partnerships.
- Expand activity on environmental weeds, i.e. those that invade native plant communities. This would include natural aquatic habitats e.g. streams, ponds, lakes (partner with Fish and Game, Boating and Waterways, California Environmental Protection Agency and USDA), as well as terrestrial habitats associated particularly with parks and preserves (partner with BLM, Nature Conservancy, California Exotic Plant Pest Council, and county, state and federal park departments). Giant cane, alligatorweed, and Cape ivy are examples of environmental weeds that are increasing in importance.
- Expand work in urban biocontrol. The urban community is an important conduit in the movement, establishment and dispersal of exotic, agricultural pests, as well as essentially "urban" plant pests, i.e. those whose preferred hosts are ornamental species. Our program has often used urban properties to establish natural enemies of agricultural pests (e.g. silverleaf whitefly, western grapeleaf skeletonizer). From there the natural enemies could disperse on their own into agricultural habitats. We've been involved in other projects, such as ash whitefly and giant whitefly, which were mainly urban. We anticipate increased work in these areas. Partnerships can include cities, counties, nurseries and homeowner associations.
- Expand our role in areawide Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Potentially effective natural enemies often do not become established or express their full potential because of various environmental constraints. By looking at how the natural enemy fits into the management system (IPM), its potential may be realized. Several of our projects are looking for ways to exploit this potential by protecting (cotton aphid project) or augmenting (silverleaf whitefly project) the natural enemies.
- Pursue establishing field insectaries for natural enemy production. Often, it is difficult and costly to produce adequate numbers of biological control agents of weed species for field release. Growing target weed species in the field may be a cost effective way to produce large quantities of their natural enemies. The feasibility of this strategy will be pursued.
- Emphasize the environmental compatibility and safety of biological control.