In 1963, in her influential book “Silent Spring”, Rachel Carson warned the world of the environmental and human health dangers of pesticide use. Carson promoted the use of biological control as an alternative method for suppressing insect outbreaks and weed infestations. Despite this warning the global expenditure on pesticides has increased annually reaching some USD 65.3 billion for 2017. Biological control, or the development of host specific natural enemies, offers the most effective and long-term solution to many invasive alien plant species and insect pests.
The Centre for Biological Control (CBC) focuses the majority of their research on understanding the ecological dynamics of invasive pests, aquatic and terrestrial weeds in particular. A large proportion of this work is the development of biological control methods for these invasive plants, which can then be implemented by Governmental Scientists and Management. Biological control is a particularly appealing solution because it is not toxic, pathogenic or dangerous to humans. It also has the advantage of being self- perpetuating once established and usually does not harm non-target organisms found in the environment. There are a number of Research Programmes within the CBC which focus on various groups of target plant species, and different aspects of biological control.
Biological control at Rhodes University dates back to the 1970s, with highly successful programmes. In 2002, stakeholders in teaching, research and implementation of biological control combined as an informal research team - the Biological Control Research Group (BCRG) where work began in search of alternative techniques to deal with the negative effects of insecticides on public health by using biologically based techniques against threats to agriculture, veterinary and humans. This group continued to grow an expand and on 2 November 2017, the Centre for Biological Control (CBC) was officially launched at Rhodes University.
The CBC is supported by the Department of Environmental Affairs - Natural Resource Management Programme and Citrus Research International. Since July 2013, the Centre has been home to the National Research Fund (NRF) South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) Chair in Insects in Sustainable Agricultural Ecosystems. These three important partnerships that allow the CBC to be successful as it is and the support is greatly valued. We also have partnerships with other Universities as part of a research consortium, where Rhodes University's CBC is the lead research institution. The consortium includes University of Cape Town, University of KwaZulu-Natal and University of the Witwatersrand. The consortium aims to increase the capacity of biological control in South Africa and seek to consolidate resources, research and implementation efforts.