Benefits and Risks of Macroorganisms for Plant Protection

Alternative food sources

Many predatory beneficials are able to utilise alternative food sources when prey is limited. If they manage to ensure their development and reproduction in this way, they could gain a competitive advantage over other species. This factor may allow immigrated or introduced exotic species to displace native ones.

Host switching in parasitoids

Beneficials such as predators and parasitoids, which are used for biological pest control, can also harm non-target organisms. To be able to assess the environmental risks before the release of such beneficials, it is important to know the physiological and behavioural factors constituting the host- or prey spectrum.

Risk assessment for beneficials

Macroorganisms are a common means of protecting plants from pests. International guidelines define how they are to be used. Agroscope evaluates the potential environmental risks of such macroorganisms on behalf of the Federal Office for Agriculture.

Interactions between natural enemies

Herbivorous insects are often attacked by a variety of natural enemies. To know the interacting species and their impact when combined is a prerequisite for efficient and safe biological control.

Parasitoid cold-tolerance and overwintering capability

The ability to survive during winter poses one of the most important barriers for establishment of species in temperate climates. To assess, during the biosafety evaluation, whether an exotic natural enemy can establish itself, it is therefore important to know its overwintering strategy and cold-tolerance.