110 Years of Federal Biological
November 24, 2000
Agricultural Research Service recently
marked more than a century of biological control research with the publication
of 110 Years of Biological Control Research and Development in the
United States Department of
This is the first time that USDAs contribution to biological control
research and its applications has been spelled out in one comprehensive volume.
The 644-page publication promises to be a rich source of information on the
nonchemical control of agricultural pests.
The term biological control--first coined in 1919 by H.S. Smith
of the University of California--was
defined as the actions of parasites, predators and pathogens in
maintaining another organisms density at a lower average than would occur
in their absence.
This new publication chronicles the evolution of the USDAs biological
control program from its inception in 1883 to 1993. In 1883, USDA researchers
successfully introduced an exotic natural organism, the braconid parasite
Cotesia glomeratus, to control the imported cabbageworm. While the
parasites introduction and establishment in the United States was
successful, it did not control the cabbageworm infestation. The first entirely
successful biological control program occurred about four years later with the
introduction in California of the vedalia beetle, which successfully controlled
a citrus pest called the cottony cushion scale.
ARS classical biological control (CBC) programs have led to an
impressive string of successes with significant economic impact. For example,
CBC programs against insect pests such as the cereal leaf beetle, alfalfa
beetle, Rhodesgrass mealybug, pea aphid and alfalfa blotch leafminer have
netted estimated annual savings of $150 million, plus increased crop yields.
Since 1944, economic benefits derived from biological programs aimed at the
control of weed pests such as common St. Johns wort, alligatorweed, tansy
ragwort and puncturevine have totaled at least $30 million annually.
The use of natural enemies and other beneficial organisms to control pests
has saved growers more than $2 billion during the last decade alone. Just as
important, these programs have helped increase agricultural production while
decreasing the industrys reliance on chemical pesticides.
Scientific contact: Jack R. Coulson, ARS
National Program Staff, Beltsville,
Md., phone (301) 504- 6350, fax (301) 504-6355,