, Volume 63, Issue 3, pp 405–416 | Cite as

A review of open-field host range testing to evaluate non-target use by herbivorous biological control candidates

  • Urs SchaffnerEmail author
  • Lincoln Smith
  • Massimo Cristofaro


One of the fundamental challenges of pre-release studies in classical biological weed control is to assess and predict the likelihood and consequences of non-target effects. Unless a candidate biological control agent is proven to be monophagous through conventional starvation and host-specificity tests in quarantine, open-field host range studies can be important in predicting the likelihood of non-target effects since they reveal the host selection of herbivores displaying the whole array of pre- and post-alightment behaviours. Over the course of its 53-year history, the purpose and the design of open-field host range studies have changed considerably, with more recent studies clarifying or refining specific questions related to one or a few test plant species and using a set design. We discuss the opportunities and challenges of this approach and suggest that future open-field host range studies should be more hypothesis-driven and apply different experimental designs that facilitate the interpretation of the results.


Weed biological control Host specificity Risk assessment 



We would like to thank Esther Gerber, Hariet Hinz, Dick Shaw, Patrick Häfliger, Tim Heard, Hariet Hinz, Louise Morin, John Scott, Rieks van Klinken, Jim Cullen, Rose deClerck-Floate, Rob Bourchier, John Goolsby, Brian Rector, René Sforza, Al Cofrancesco and Terry Olckers for providing information on open-field host range tests and the handling editor and two anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful comments. Urs Schaffner was supported by CABI with core financial support from its member countries (see

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Copyright information

© International Organization for Biological Control (IOBC) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Urs Schaffner
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lincoln Smith
    • 2
  • Massimo Cristofaro
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.CABIDelémontSwitzerland
  2. 2.USDA-ARS European Biological Control LaboratoryMontferrier-Sur-LezFrance
  3. 3.BBCA OnlusRomeItaly
  4. 4.ENEA CasacciaRomeItaly

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