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Opportunities for biological weed control in Europe

Abstract

The development and application of biological weed control offer greatopportunities not only for farmers, nature conservationists and othervegetation managers but also for institutions and companies that wish tosell plant protection services and products, and for the general publicthat demands safe food and a visually attractive and diverseenvironment. Despite the obvious opportunities for biological weedcontrol, few control agents are actually being used in Europe. Potentialagent organisms have features that make them particularly strong anduseful for biological control, but they also have weaknesses. Weaknessesinclude a too narrow or too wide host specificity, lack of virulence, orsensitivity to unfavourable environmental conditions.

Developing specific knowledge on the interaction between weeds andpotential biological control agents, as well as expertise to increasethe effect of control agents and so achieve sufficient weed control in acost-effective manner, should have the highest priority in researchprogrammes. From 1994 to 2000 most ongoing research on biological weedcontrol in Europe was combined in a cooperative programme. This COSTAction concentrated on the interactions between five target crop weedsand their antagonists (pathogens and insects), on furthercharacterisation of the specific blems and potential control agents andon the most suitable biological control approach.

The next major challenge will be to apply the findings provided byCOST-816 to the development of practical control solutions. The leadingobjective of a new concerted research programme with European dimensionswill be to stabilise or even promote biodiversity in the most importantEuropean ecosystems by integrating biological weed control in themanagement of these systems.

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Correspondence to P.C. Scheepens.

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Scheepens, P., Müller-Schärer, H. & Kempenaar, C. Opportunities for biological weed control in Europe. BioControl 46, 127–138 (2001). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1011445721800

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  • biological weed control
  • selective weed control
  • bioherbicide
  • pathogens
  • insects
  • narrow host spectrum
  • biodiversity
  • coordinated European research