Categorized | Agriculture

International symposium convenes on weed control


About 200 invasive weed experts from around the world have convened for the XIII International Symposium on Biological Control of Weeds.

The symposium runs through Friday, Sept. 16 at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort and Spa. This international conference is held once every four years and is the premier international forum for scientists and managers working in biological control of weeds around the world.

Biological control, which utilizes natural plant enemies and/or diseases, is needed in natural and managed ecosystems worldwide as a tool for managing invasive plant species that are too widespread and expensive to control using herbicides and/or mechanical removal methods.

Although challenging to implement, effective biocontrol can provide long-term, large-scale, highly selective control of otherwise prolific weeds. Current research methods thoroughly test potential biocontrol agents prior to release to ensure that they only attack the target weed and not other native or beneficial plants or animals.

“Biological control is a necessary tool for protecting our native forests from highly invasive plants,” said Tracy Johnson, PhD, research entomologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service (USDA-FS) and co-chair of the symposium. “This meeting in Hawaii will provide a unique opportunity to draw on worldwide expertise to create new solutions for our worst weeds.”

“It is so appropriate that Hawaii hosts this important symposium since the biological control of weeds actually began in Hawaii,” said Neil Reimer, PhD, Plant Pest Control manager for the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA). “With the tight economy and the Department of Agriculture’s diminished resources, the collaboration between states and nations becomes even more important.”

The Kingdom of Hawaii was a world leader in biocontrol with successful introductions of a beetle to control cottony cushion scale in 1890. After Hawaii became a U.S. territory in 1900, biological control methods progressed with the introduction of several insect species to control lantana in 1902.

Since then, researchers in Hawaii continue to be internationally recognized in biological control of weeds and plant pests and have collaborated with colleagues worldwide on the biological control of invasive weeds such as miconia, fireweed, fountain grass, banana poka, ivy gourd and gorse, among others.

Many of those who have collaborated with Hawaii researchers are attending the conference from the U.S. mainland and countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, United Kingdom, Brazil, Costa Rica, and South Africa.

The conference is hosted by HDOA, USDA-FS, and the University of Hawaii at Hilo Conference Center.

Sponsors of the conference include: USDA-FS Pacific Southwest Research Station, Hawaii County Department of Research & Development, Hawaiian Electric Company & Hawaii Electric Light Company, Landcare Research Manaaki Whenua (New Zealand), U.S. Geological Survey Pacific Island Ecosystem Research Center, Hawaii Forest and Trail, Destination Hilo, HDOA, Maui Invasive Species Committee, University of Hawaii at Hilo Conference Center.

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