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Ecocompatible strategies to control weeds and insect pests



About us


The Biotechnology and Biological Control Agency, BBCA, is a non-profit Association established in 2000 in Rome, Italy. The Association gathers applied entomology scientists and young researchers with a common interest on the development of ecocompatible and least toxic strategies to control weeds and insect pests. In this framework, biological control and especially classical biocontrol of weeds has been the main research area of BBCA, mainly in cooperation withUSDA ARS, EBCL and CABI.

Since its establishment, BBCA grew up more as a network of research groups from different countries. Such network system catalyses the gathering of multidisciplinary expertises around and towards the common objective to evaluate and select specific arthropods and pathogens as effective biological control agents (BCA) for the target weeds. The most important outcome of such strict cooperation is the successful development of several biocontrol projects on important US weeds of Eurasian origin.
BBCA has also developed research projects concerning the physiology of several species of insects and their physiological and behavioral response to a number of biological derived least-toxic compounds and to different sensorial stimuli. 



Steps in biological control

Biological control of weeds

1. A typical BCW project starts with a survey from literature and plant/insect specialists to gather as much information as possible on the weed and its natural enemies.
2. The second step is to conduct foreign explorations in the area of origin of the weed to select insects, mites and/or pathogens as candidate BCAs. Such selection is based upon the host specificity and the type of damage (impact) caused to the weed by the candidate BCA alone or in sinergy with pathogens.
3. After collection and identification, the biology, host specificity and impact of selected BCAs are assessed in laboratory and field experiments. A first set of experiments is carried out in laboratory and field conditions in the native range; a second set of tests, usually consequent to the first, is carried out in quarantine conditions at the site of introduction.
4. After both sets of trials have been positively completed, a petition for release is submitted to the authority in charge to approve or reject the release of BCAs.


Classical Biological Control of Weeds (BCW) is defined as the intentional introduction of exotic, usually co-evolved, biocontrol agents (BCA) for permanent establishment and long-term control of a given weed of exotic origin. The goal in classical biological control is to reduce and not to eradicate the target weed species.
The use of BCW has numerous advantages: (a) it has a very low cost/benefit rate, (b) the threat to non-target organisms is very limited, (c) it is a one-time application strategy: once established, biological control agents are self perpetuating and can spread on their own and, (d) the environmental impact is generally very low.
There are also some drawbacks of BCW: (a) the risk of BCA host-shift after introduction requires extremely accurate risk assessment and host specificity tests; (b) BCAs are not available for all target weeds; (c) BCW research needs usually long time; It generally takes years of research and testing before agents are released; (d) it is a slow process.

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