Frustrations in economic botany: The efforts to manage the coconut scale insect in German Micronesia (1899–1914)

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Abstract

Wide-spread and largely unregulated introduction of plants and animals for private or public gain under the guise of economic botany can pose substantial risk to a local economy. Inadvertent introductions of plant pests can devastate subsistence or production crops. Such is the case with the introduction of the coconut scale insect to Micronesia during the final years of the Spanish administration (pre-1899). The agents responsible for its introduction and spread were a combination of traditional trading practices and communications networks. To combat the infestations, the incoming German colonial administration (1899–1914) moved to both contain its spread through regulations and land manage-ment practices and through the introduction of coccinellid beetles from a range of sources. This paper discusses the var-ious approaches taken by an increasingly frustrated German administration which was worried that the scale insect might cause the collapse of the copra industry and thus threaten the economic viability of the Micronesian colonies. The German actions are the first recorded incidence of biological control of plant pests in the Pacific Islands outside of Hawai’i.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257–285
Number of pages29
JournalAgricultural History
Volume68
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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