Skip to main content

Opportunities for biological weed control in Europe


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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. Ammon, H.U. and H. Müller-Schärer, 1999. Prospects for combining biological weed control with integrated crop production systems, and with sensitive management of alpine pastures in Switzerland. Zeitschrift-für-Pflanzenkrankheiten und Pflanzenschutz 106: 213–220.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Boyetchko, S.M., 1997. Principles of biological weed control with micoorganisms. HortScience 32: 201–205.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Cavers, P.B. and J.L. Harper, 1964. Rumex obtusifolius L. and Rumex crispus L. Journal of Ecology 52: 737–766.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Charudattan, R., 2000. Current status of biological control of weeds. In: Proceedings of a International Conference on Emerging Technologies in IPM, 8–10 March 1999, Raleigh, NC. APS Press, St. Paul, MN, USA. pp. 269–288.

    Google Scholar 

  5. DeJong, M.D., 2000. The Biochon story: deployment of Chondrostereum purpureum to suppress stump sprouting in hardwoods. Mycologist 14: 58–62.

    Google Scholar 

  6. DeJong, M.D., P.C. Scheepens and J.C. Zadoks, 1990. Risk analysis for biological control: A Dutch case study in biocontrol of Prunus serotina by the fungus Chondrostereum purpureum. Plant Disease 74: 189–194.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Donald, W.W., 1990. Management and control of Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense). Review of Weed Science 5: 193–250.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Frantzen, J., N.D. Paul and H. Müller-Schärer, 2001. The system management approach of biological weed control: some theoretical considerations and aspects of application. BioControl 46(2): 139–155 (this issue).

    Google Scholar 

  9. Greaves, M.P., B.A. Auld and P.J. Holloway, 1998. Formulation of microbial herbicides. In: H.D. Burges (ed.), Formulation of microbial biopesticides, beneficial microorganisms, nematodes and seed treatments. Kluwer Academic Publisher. pp. 203–233.

  10. Hatcher, P.E., 1996. The effect of insect-fungus interactions on the autumn growth and overwintering of Rumex crispus and R. obtusifolius seedlings. Journal of Ecology (Oxford) 84: 101–109.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Kempenaar, C. and P.C. Scheepens, 1999. Dutch case studies showing the success and limitations of biological weed control. In: The 1999 Brighton Conference; Weeds. Proceedings of an International Conference, 15–18 November 1999, Brighton, UK, pp. 297–302.

  12. Müller-Schärer, H. and J. Frantzen, 1996. An emerging system management approach for biological weed control in crops: Senecio vulgaris as a research model. Weed Research 36: 483–491.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Müller-Schärer, H. and P.C. Scheepens, 1997. Biological control of weeds in crops: a coordinated European research Programme (COST-816). Integrated Pest Management Reviews 2: 45–50.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Müller-Schärer, H., P.C. Scheepens and M.P. Greaves, 2000. Biological control of weeds in European crops: recent achievements and future work. Weed Research 40: 83–98.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Schaffner, U., D. Kleijn, V. Brown and H. Müller-Schärer, 2001. Veratrum album L. on montane grasslands: a model system for implementing biological control in land management practices of high biodiversity habitats. Biocontrol News and Information (in press).

  16. Weston, V.C.M., 1999. The commercial realisation of biological herbicides. In: The 1999 Brighton Conference; Weeds. Proceedings of an International Conference, 15–18 November 1999, Brighton, UK. pp. 281–288.

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to P.C. Scheepens.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Scheepens, P., Müller-Schärer, H. & Kempenaar, C. Opportunities for biological weed control in Europe. BioControl 46, 127–138 (2001).

Download citation

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