Tools and outreach programs have been developed to allow efficient and effective assessment of the quality of mass-produced biological control agents.
Mass-produced natural enemies are arthropods produced in commercial rearing facilities and are used in biological control of pests. These natural enemies find use in many cropping systems, but most notably in green houses. A concern of both suppliers and users of these beneficial organisms is that high quality of the natural enemies be maintained. Quality constitutes many attributes including numbers of natural enemies shipped, survival, fecundity and ability to attack pests. Shipments of natural enemies of poor quality can lead to pest control failures and subsequent reductions in future sales by suppliers. Ultimately, the availability of high quality mass-produced natural enemies will either foster or derail adoption of some biological control efforts. Producers of natural enemies and pest management practitioners have long recognized the need for quality assurance; however, measurement and assessment tools and an understanding of how production, storage and shipping practices influence fitness and survival are currently lacking.
A three-fold response has been directed at this issue. First, an extension and outreach program to producers of mass-produced natural enemies and practitioners has been initiated that seeks to convey principals of quality assurance and measurement. The reasoning for this is that new tools will not be adopted unless the basis for these tools is understood. Second, sampling tools with known statistical properties have been developed for use in determining whether shipments of natural enemies meet advertised standards of numbers per shipping unit. These sampling tools are being incorporated into published standards that meet guidelines provided by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). Third, experiments have and continue to be conducted that address the question of how production, storage and shipping practices influence the quality of mass-produced natural enemies. These experiments have examined 1) how storage influences development, flight ability and attack of pests by two species of parasitoids and 2) how storage conditions influence dispersal and reproduction by a predaceous mite.
The industry that produces biological control agents is now more knowledgeable about risk assessment, quality control, and sampling for decision making. This has created an environment in which quality assurance tools, developed in consort with producers and practitioners will be accepted and put to use. Quality control deficiencies have been recognized and research is underway to develop processes and procedures that will mitigate these problems. Ultimately, the quality of mass-produced natural enemies has and will continue to be bolstered which will help promote adoption of biological control.
- Private (e.g., commodity groups, foundations, companies)
- Jan Nyrop, Department of Entomology, NYSAES, Cornell University