Putting biological reality into economic assessments of biocontrol

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperConference paperpeer-review


Prioritising, exploring, identifying and multi-stage screening of potential biocontrol agents is an arduous, sequential attrition process of discovering biological reality against exacting standards. In this it is like gold mining in which tons of rock must be excavated to find an ounce of the precious metal. It may also be compared with musical composition in which many ideas are tried before a piece emerges as an enduring hit. The industry and artistry to produce gold and musical masterpieces are private initiatives that entail both great risks and great rewards. The scientific organization and skill marshalled for research and development of classical biological control entail similar risks but have typically produced public-good benefits far in excess of costs. Ex ante analyses, considering potential economic, social and environmental benefits and costs, to sort out priorities for research, are as important as ex post studies of completed successful biocontrol projects. In ex-ante analyses, damages caused and threatened by a pest in its introduced environment may be clear, while the biological realities of potential biocontrol agents are as yet unknown; scenario testing with different levels of biocontrol efficacy and timing may help identify performance targets for project success. In the case of completed successful projects, the biological realities of both the pest and the agents are often clear enough for confident ex post analysis. Examples of economic analyses at different stages of completeness in the knowledge of biological reality of the agents are reviewed. Two insect biocontrol examples use economic methods applicable also to weeds.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the CRC for Australian Weed Management Biological Control of Weeds Symposium and Workshop
EditorsH. Spafford Jacob, David T. Briese
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publisher CRC for Australian Weed Management
Number of pages11
VolumeTechnical Series no. 7
ISBN (Print)0958701075
Publication statusPublished - 2003
EventBiological Control of Weeds Symp. and Workshop, Univ. of WA, Perth, 13 Sept 2002 - University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia
Duration: 13 Sep 2003 → …

Publication series

NameImproving the selection, testing and evaluation of weed biocontrol agents. Proc., Biological Control of Weeds Symp. and Workshop
PublisherCRC for Australian Weed Management
NumberTechnical Series no. 7
NameTechnical Series no. 7


ConferenceBiological Control of Weeds Symp. and Workshop, Univ. of WA, Perth, 13 Sept 2002
Period13/09/03 → …
Internet address


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