Investigations will provide an understanding of the basis for the stability of these communities in natural systems as well as identify where the use of supplemental inputs and cultural practices disturbs the managed ecosystem and how pest populations develop and adapt to these disturbances. By more fully developing the ecological knowledge base and then coupling that with the expanding base of pest management experience, scientists can devise strategies to effectively manage pests and restore balance to forest and agricultural ecosystems. For example, research investigations of chemical signaling between insects and plants and production of toxic proteins by bacteria have been instrumental in developing biological-control products such as semiochemicals and biological insecticides.
Research is also needed to ensure that EBPM strategies can be transferred from the laboratory to a grower's field where agronomic practices and biological-control inputs can be evaluated in whole-farm settings. Moving from discovery to implementation requires a systems approach in which researchers from many disciplines cooperate in building safe, profitable, and durable pest management approaches.
Currently EBPM research is the primary focus of a relatively small group of scientists whose contributions have led to the development of successful and economically feasible pest management systems. The challenge now is to move beyond optimal examples and into the mainstream of pest management. Accelerating the development of EBPM requires a clear agenda and institutions that can carry out that agenda. The focus should be to identify research that either overcomes obstacles to wider use of ecologically based management systems or leads to new and innovative ecologically based approaches.
Thus far only cursory knowledge about biological factors that control agricultural pest populations has been developed. For example, it is known that release of biological-control organisms to control pests is an option; however, the ability to predict the outcome of that release is limited. In fact, the proportion of releases of classical biological-control organisms that have resulted in complete suppression of the pest is rather low (Hall and Ehler, 1979; Hall et al., 1980).
EBPM implementation requires a basic understanding of the ecosystems in which agricultural predator and prey coexist, including an understanding of
the many interacting factors that influence population size and the activities of control organisms and antagonists,
the composition and dynamics of microbial communities present in soil and on plant surfaces,
the food webs governing the population of pests, and
the factors influencing the spatial distribution and differential fitness between weed and crop.