University of Idaho researcher looks at weed biocontrol

Mark Schwarzländer, University of Idaho CALS professor of entomology and biological control of weeds, counts himself among the dwindling number of land-grant university researchers who focus exclusively on weed biocontrol.

He probably could consider himself in even rarer company, too: those who have tackled the creation of a global catalog of anything.

He and longtime colleague Hariet Hinz, a researcher at CABI Switzerland, teamed with CALS alumna Rachel L. Winston of Shelley and four others to marshal the efforts of 125 weed biocontrol specialists worldwide to produce an 838-pagetome on the topic.

The book included 551 biocontrol agents – fungi, mites, insects and nematodes – that were released to control 224 weed species. The catalog tracked more than 2,000 separate releases of biocontrol agents spanning 130countries until December, 2012.

In many cases, the insects or other biocontrol agents are imported from the areas where the invasive weeds originated, such as Europe and Asia. In other, less common cases, native organisms have been moved around within their native ranges to control weeds. The book also tracks the use of bioherbicides, disease-causing organisms sprayed on weeds to control them, much like chemical herbicides.

The first copies of the new fifth edition of "Biological Control of Weeds: A World Catalogue of Agents and Their Target Weeds arrived in Schwarzländer's office Feb. 1. The information is available online at

A new, 838-page "Biological Control of Weeds: A World Catalogue of Agents and Their Target Weeds, drew together 125 experts around the globe, relied on 2,083 scientific papers and necessitated "the mother of all spreadsheets, an Excel file with more than 2,100 rows and 90 columns. University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences entomology professor Mark Schwarzländer, pictured, joined with alumna Rachel L. Winston of Shelley, Hariet Hinz of CABI in Switzerland and four other authors to produce the tome.

The book fills a 16-year gap in a publishing schedule first set by an international group of biocontrol researchers. A partnership between University of Idaho Extension and the USDA Forest Service's Forest Health Technology Enterprise Team produced the book.

Schwarzländer is a member of an international close-knit group of researchers that organized in the 1970s to find solutions to exotic, invasive weeds. He worked for CABI, an intergovernmental research organization in Switzerland, for 11 years on such research before joining the UI faculty in 2000.

This group also collectively helped to provide content for the first four editions of the world catalog of biocontrol agents and their target weeds. That string ended in 1998.

In the meantime Schwarzländer and his former grad student Winston, who graduated from UI in 2007, had begun producing regional guides to biocontrol agents and weeds. She now operates MIA consulting in Shelley.

In 2008, Schwarzländer, Winston and his former CABI colleague Hinz began talking about reviving the international catalog.

To do so required the creation of the "mother of all Excel spreadsheets, Schwarzländer said, with more than 2,100 rows and 90 columns.

He credited Winston's near-superhuman ability to read and annotate the 2,083 scientific papers that served as catalog references won her respect from biocontrol researchers worldwide and were key to the effort's success.


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