Reducing pesticide inputs requires alternative, e.g. biological, pest control measures. Biological control of spider mites usually requires multiple inundative releases of predators. The only permanent pest reduction through inoculative releases of predatory mites was achieved on cassava in Africa. Te inoculative use of predatroy mites is hampered by a poor understanding of their desired ecological/biological attributes. Ecological theory has considered the importance of desired attributes for systems involving two trophic levels, but it is increasingly clear that attention must be paid to host plant traits and alternative food. The study of food webs and its bearing on biological control is in its infacy. In this poroposal, the cassava case will be used as a paradigm to hypothesize on the importance of complex trophic relationships for success in biological control. The hypotheses concern (1) the importance of host plant attributes for pest suppression and (2) effects of interactions between natural enemies on control success.
A training in the fundaments of ecology/population biology and its application in biocontrol is a prerequesite to enhance sustainable agriculture in Portugal. Reducing pesticide use will have a positive impact on the environment and make crop production more cost effective. Commercial production of biocontrol agents.