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March 2002, Volume 23 No. 1


Conference Reports

Have you held or attended a meeting that you want other biocontrol workers to know about? Send us a report and we will include it in BNI.

Arthropod Biocontrol Meeting HI-lights

The First International Symposium on Biological Control of Arthropods (1st ISBCA) was held on 14-18 January 2002 in Honolulu, Hawaii, USA, and attended by 150 scientists from 25 countries. This meeting launched a new series of meetings that will be held every four years. The goal of the meeting was to bring together scientists working on the use of predators or parasitoids for control of insects or mites to discuss projects and issues. The format of the meeting is small (about 200 key people) with no concurrent sessions and plenty of time for discussion.

Introduction, augmentation and conservation biological control were each covered by a full day of 16 talks each, with the opening day devoted to consideration of issues and methodologies affecting biological control projects broadly. The meeting series is conceived to be the analogue of the long running and highly effective International Symposia on the Biological Control of Weeds, which have been going since 1960. The new ISBCA is intended to bring together people working on control of insects and mites to foster communication and stimulate work on issues of common interest.

The first day of the meeting (Monday) was opened by a keynote address from Mark Hoddle of the University of California and a special talk by Jim Cullen of Australia (CSIRO) honoring Doug Waterhouse, recently deceased. The first session, 'Issues in Future Expanded Use of Classical Biological Control', was opened by Matthew Cock of CABI Bioscience, followed by Lloyd Loope of the US National Park Service, Frank Howarth of the Bishop Museum, Barbara Barratt of AgResearch in New Zealand, and Don Sands of CSIRO in Australia. Issues discussed included perspectives on the rising tide of invasions in an age of global trade, legal issues in the regulation of biological control, and technology for estimating host ranges of new parasitoid species being studied for introduction. The second session of the day, 'Methods to Colonize, Evaluate, and Monitor Natural Enemies', presented material on studies of native whitefly host relationships in Australia, introduced whitefly parasitoids in the US, and the successful control of a eucalyptus borer in California. The afternoon programme continued with a session, 'Use of Molecular Methods in Classical Biological Control', organized by Marjorie Hoy of the University of Florida, which featured case studies on how to use molecular methods to do such things as separate out cryptic species in natural enemy collections, exclude contaminating pathogens in groups of natural enemies in quarantine, and obtain field estimates of predation and parasitism. This session was followed by 'Modeling and Theory as Tools to Clarify Causes of Success or Failure of BC Projects', organized by Nigel Barlow of AgResearch in New Zealand, with presentations by scientists from California, France, and the Czech Republic.

Tuesday was devoted to studies of biological control through augmentation of natural enemies. The keynote speaker for the day was Kevin Heinz of Texas A & M University (USA). Two sessions focused on crop-specific examples: 'Successes in Augmentative Biological Control', which covered use in greenhouses and apples and 'Survey of Actual and Potential Use in Outdoor Crops', organized by Bob Luck of the University of California, USA, on use of augmentative biological control in citrus and hops. The other two sessions covered economics of natural enemy production ('Economics of Production and use of Reared Natural Enemies', organized by Ron Valentin, Koppert, Canada, Inc.) from the producer's perspective and the ecology of natural enemy movement ('Post-Release Dispersal, Distribution, and Impact of Augmented Natural Enemies in Field Settings', organized by Livy Williams, US Department of Agriculture; USDA).

The middle day of the programme was devoted to a tour of the Island of Oahu, with stops to see natural enemy research on mites on papaya and mealybugs on pineapple, and also stops at the State Department of Agriculture and the USDA fruit fly research laboratory.

Thursday was devoted to studies of biological control by means of natural enemy conservation. The keynote speaker was H. F. van Emden of Reading University, UK. Sessions were presented on 'Nectar Feeding by Parasitoids' (organized by George Heimpel of Minnesota, USA and Robert Pfannensteil, Texas, USA), featuring speakers from Australia, New Zealand, and the Netherlands; on 'Alternative Hosts and Habitat Refuges for Natural Enemies' (same organizers); on 'Effects on Natural Enemies of Using Bt Crops in IPM Systems' (organized by Brian Federici, University of California, Riverside); and 'Pesticide Effects on Natural Enemies' (organized by Livy Williams, USDA).

The final day of the programme (Friday) was given over to recent projects of classical biological control. Tom Bellows, University of California, Riverside was keynote speaker and speakers addressed projects from Benin, Guam, Papua New Guinea, Australia (Queensland), New Zealand, the USA (Florida and California), Japan and Switzerland. In addition, there was a session organized by Russell Messing of the University of Hawaii 'Monitoring for Effects of Biocontrol Agents on Nontarget Organisms'.

The proceedings of the meeting (short papers of all 147 presentations - 66 talks and 65 posters) will be published with support of the US Forest Service and free copies will be available by late summer 2002 (contact Roy Van Driesche for copies).

The next meeting in this series will be held in late September-early October, 2005 in Switzerland in the high Alps. Ulli Kuhlmann, CABI Bioscience Switzerland, will put together the local organizing committee. An international programme committee to develop the meeting's content will be headed by Mark Hoddle, University of California, Riverside. Anyone interested in helping on the committee should get in touch with Mark.

The long term importance of this series of meetings will be in fostering closer contact among insect biological control workers and providing a forum for discussion of critical issues and organizing ad hoc groups to address them. We hope to have approximately 200 of the world's top people in attendance in Switzerland.

By Roy Van Driesche, Department of Entomology, University of Massachusetts, USA

Hot Topics in Australasian Plant Pathology

The Australasian Plant Pathology Society was founded in 1969 and every 2 years an organizing committee from an Australian State or Territory or New Zealand has convened the APPS conference and held it at a local venue. The 13th Biennial Australasian Plant Pathology Society Conference was held in Cairns in north Queensland, Australia on 24-27 September 2001. This was the first time the conference had been held in a regional location and the first time it had been held in a tropical location. Around 325 delegates from 20 nations attended the conference and preceding workshops. Delegates came from all states of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Japan, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Samoa, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand. Some delegates travelled from Europe and the USA to participate in the conference.

The workshops that preceded the conference dealt with a wide range of topics including:

  • Identification and classification of Ascomycetes
  • Identification and classification of Ustilaginomycetes
  • Uncultivable plant pathogens
  • Introduction to Bionavigator
  • Soil nematode ecology
  • Plant defence mechanisms
  • Dieback in tropical rainforests
  • Diagnosis of plant diseases caused by bacteria
  • Plant pathology diagnostics

The workshop on plant defence mechanisms proved to be the most popular at this year's conference. The nematode ecology workshop run by Dr Gregor Yeates was able to use the diversity of nematodes assemblages to demonstrate the impact that differences in agricultural practices have on the soil ecology. A report on the results of this workshop is to be published in the Australasian Nematology Newsletter December publication.

The conference was divided into three symposium sessions, 25 concurrent sessions and eight poster sessions.

The first symposium on Pathogen Dynamics in the Plant Environment dealt with genetics and genomics of fungal pathogenicity (Dr Richard Oliver), cellular interactions of biotrophic fungal pathogens (Dr Michelle Heath) and microbial ecology in the rhizosphere (Dr Dan Kluepfel). The second symposium, focussing on getting the message out, dealt with relaying information to farmers about plant diseases and the importance of two-way communication when dealing with complex issues such as plant diseases (Dr Joe Noling & Dr Joe Kochman). An account of what farmers are faced with was given by Mr Alan Zappala who manages a mixed farming enterprise which includes sugarcane, tropical fruit and flower production. The final symposium dealt with plant pathology in the tropics. The pest and disease situation of sugarcane production in Papua New Guinea, the home of sugarcane, was highlighted by Dr Lastus Kuniata. The need for quality biodiversity through resistance breeding and use of wild types was presented by Dr Jill Lenne. The diagnostic and advisory support needed in developing countries to deal with plant diseases was highlighted by Dr Mark Holderness.

Two additional keynote addresses were given by prominent international delegates on fungal population genetics (Dr Bruce McDonald) and on virus vector relationships (Dr Tom Pirone). The presidential lecture (Dr David Guest) and the McAlpine Memorial Lecture (Dr Alan Dubé) both highlighted the difficulty in funding plant pathology research, an analysis of external factors influencing research and employment of plant pathologists as well as the need for succession planning to ensure high quality plant pathology research continues in Australasia.

There were 141 oral presentations and 159 poster presentation at the conference. The concurrent oral and poster sessions were categorized into extremely diverse subject groups. Oral session topics were soil borne diseases, exotic pathogens and quarantine, disease surveys and new pathogens (two sessions), biological control of weeds, virology (two sessions), bacteriology, plant pathogen interactions (two sessions), population genetics of pathogens, epidemiology, diagnosis and detection (two sessions), phytoplasmology, disease management (three sessions), nematology, breeding for disease resistance, biocontrol of pathogens, diseases in natural ecosystems, induced resistance, and tropical plant pathology (two sessions). Contributed posters were divided into suitable topic groupings and each poster presenter was given a short period of time, in designated poster discussion sessions, to informally present a brief overview of their work to interested listeners. Poster discussion session topics were detection and diagnosis, disease management, nematology/bacteriology/phytoplasmology/virology/diseases of uncertain etiology, fungal diseases (two sessions), breeding for disease resistance, disease and weed management, and host pathogen interactions.

Following the conference, two busloads of delegates were given a chance to see first hand, Australian tropical agriculture and horticulture in action. As always, this meeting facilitated ample social interaction and informal networking. A welcome mixer and the formal dinner took place at the Cairns Convention Centre. A farewell function was held poolside at a nearby hotel.

The 14th Australasian Plant Pathology Society Conference is to be held in conjunction with the 8th International Congress of Plant Pathology in Christchurch, New Zealand on 2-7 February 2003 at the Christchurch Convention Centre. Information on the conference can be accessed at their website:

By: Tony Pattison, Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Centre for Wet Tropics Agriculture, PO Box 20, South Johnstone, Qld 4859, Australia
Fax: +61 7 4064 2249

Weed Biocontrol in Europe

The latest weed biological control workshop of the European Weed Research Society (EWRS) was held in the School of Plant Sciences, the University of Reading, Reading, UK on 6-7 January 2002 and was attended by 28 delegates from eight countries. These workshops are run by the Biological Control Working Group of the EWRS and are held roughly every 2 years (recent ones have been held in Switzerland, Germany and France). They aim to provide an informal forum for the discussion of current research and weed biological control issues in Europe.

Dick Shaw (UK) started proceedings by discussing the challenges facing classical biological control of weeds in the UK. Despite much experience with natural pest control there has never been a full release of a weed biological control agent in Europe: a successful example would greatly help facilitate the further development of this field. Heinz Müller-Schärer (Switzerland) then described the genetic population structure of Senecio vulgaris in relation to its pathogen Puccinia lagenophorae. Despite significant within and between population genetic variation in susceptibility to the rust fungus, sustainability of biological control was estimated as high as no incompatible reactions were observed. Blair Grace (Switzerland) followed and reported that placing inocula of P. lagenophorae in the field early in the growing season can make S. vulgaris less competitive against carrots, thus increasing their marketable yield. This could be a promising example of the systems management approach.

Jonathan Gressel (Israel) described recent work in obtaining hypovirulence against Abutilon in Colletotrichum coccodes after introducing the nep 1 gene. He then talked about a proposed system for 'bio-barcodingTM' mycoherbicides to mark and protect transgenic and/or patented lines, or to trace mycoherbicides in the environment. This was followed by four papers exploring different aspects of herbivore interactions with weeds. Alois Honek (Czech Republic) described the development of two Coleoptera seed predators of Taraxacum officinale in relation to their temperature requirements, Esther Gerber (Switzerland) reported on experiments into the effect of the root herbivore Ceutorhynchus scrobicollis on the invasive weed Alliaria petiolata, an environmental weed in North America, Ian Keary (UK) reported on experiments determining the effects of insects and fungi, applied alone and in combination, on the establishment of Rumex obtusifolius in Lolium perenne, and Urs Treier (Switzerland) explained the effect of cattle and mollusc grazing on seedling recruitment of the mountain grassland weed Veratrum album.

The second day of the workshop started with a paper by Alan Gange (UK) describing the results of some novel experiments investigating the potential for biological control of Poa annua in sports turf using mycorrhiza which appear to be antagonistic to this weed. This was followed by three papers reporting experiments into biocontrol of Orobanche using fungi. Dorette Müller-Stöver (Germany) described successful green-house trials of a granular formulation of Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. orthoceras against O. cumana. However, the level of the disease and its influence against Orobanche emergence was far lower in the field compared to the pot experiments. Joseph Hershenhorn (Israel) detailed several new pathogens against Orobanche that were being tested in the greenhouse and Jonathan Gressel (Israel) gave a talk on work in his lab on engineering hypervirulence in F. oxysporum and F. arthrosporioides pathogenic on O. aegyptiaca using genes that cause overproduction of IAA.

In addition, posters were displayed on allelopathic compounds from Inula viscosa (Joseph Hershenhorn, Israel), the potential of biological control as a management tool for Rhododendron in the UK (Marion Seier, UK), progress on the Japanese knotweed biological control programme in the UK (Dick Shaw, UK), and the insect natural enemies of Cuscuta and Orobanche in Slovakia (Peter Toth, Slovakia).

The workshop finished with a guided visit to CABI Bioscience's Ascot weed biological control laboratories. The papers presented at the workshop demonstrated that research into the biological control of weeds in Europe is still strong, with a great diversity of target systems and biocontrol approaches being investigated. It is especially healthy that new approaches are also being actively investigated. However, bearing in mind the opening presentation, there was a discussion session during the workshop on ideas for improving the visibility of weed biological control and the working group in Europe. It was decided that as a first step a web-site would be set up to provide a forum for exchange of ideas and information.

The next working group meeting will be held in conjunction with the EWRS symposium in 2004.

For an email copy of the abstracts from this workshop, or to be placed on the (e)mailing list, please contact the working group chairman (Email:

By Paul Hatcher, University of Reading, UK


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