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Xavier RLC

Research in Agroecology & Biocontrol

Research in Franciscan Environmental Ethics
Biodiversity Ethics
Spirituality & Sustainability
Justice for Farmworkers
Environmental Justice in the Catholic Imagination

Keith Douglass Warner OFM's
Research and Education Website

Agroecology & Biological Control

My dissertation investigated the extension of agroecology through California's agroecological partnerships, and it is available from MIT Press as Agroecology in Action: Extending Alternative Agriculture Through Social Networks. Several other publications resulted from this work (below). I wrote an author meets blogger article for The World's Fair at University of Virginia.

Cindy Lashbrook, below, an independent consultant, uses agroecological knowledge to manage almonds with minimal pesticides.

My primary research activities since 2004 have addressed ethics and values in classical biological control practice and policy, the broader social institutional context of invasive species control efforts. The practice of introducing novel organisms to control invasive pests has the greatest possibility of providing sustainable pest control, but has been clouded by ethical concerns, which has made policymaking difficult. This research has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the California Department of Food and Agriculture, and has taken me to New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, Vietnam, France and Switzerland.

Social science research into biological control practice and policy

Biological control is the action of parasites, predators, and pathogens in maintaining another organism’s density at a lower average than would occur in their absence. Thus, biological control is a natural phenomenon, a field of study, and a deliberate pest control strategy. It is a keystone to ecologically rational and integrated pest management (IPM) in agriculture.My research in this field investigates the social, economic, ethical, and policy factors shaping, driving and constraining this sceintific research field and its institutions.

From 2004-present, I been funded by CDFA on a research project titled “Biological Control of Arthropod Pests in California Agriculture: Current Status and Future Potential.” Initially I investigated the economics, scientific practice, extension sociology, and policy context shaping biocontrol in California. The best paper to come out of this CDFA funded resarch is The decline of public interest agricultural science and the dubious future of crop biological control in California. I coauthored this with two UC collaborators and SCU students, and it was published in fall 2011 in Agriculture & Human Values.
The first paper from the CDFA study is titled A socio-economic analysis of the North American commercial natural enemy industry and implications for augmentative biological control, and it appeared in the journal Biological Control. Goniozus legneri, a parasitoid, attacks Navel Orangeworm, a crop pest
Below you can see a picture of a low-tech commercial insectary that rears predatory mites on bugs living on these plants, and these benefical insects are used as a pesticide alterantive on California strawberries on the Central Coast.

I attended a field day near Firebaugh and witnessed this outreach scientist from Rincon-Vitova insectary explaining how to use a D-vac to survey a cotton field for beneficial insects.

Pretending to play Cricket at
Lincoln University in New Zealand. Photo courtesy Charlie Pickett

I contributed to Economics and adoption of conservation biological control with some chaps from Lincoln University in New Zealand, also published in Biological Control. In February of 2009 I presented a paper at the 3rd International Symposium on the Biological Control of Arthropods in Christchurch New Zealand: Evaluating Scientific Institutional Capacity For Biological Control: A California Study As A Model Regional Network Assessment (with the help of co-authors). This was published in the February 2009 proceedings.

The journal Biocontrol, Science & Technology published an article I co-authored titled "An analysis of historical trends in classical biological control of arthropods suggests need for a new centralized database in the USA." The charts in this pre-publication draft are in color, and easier to read than the actual B&W pdf.

In March of 2007 I received a National Science Foundation grant for my study "Managing Risk in the Public Interest: How Ethics and Values Shape Biological Control Practice and Policy" from the Program Ethics & Values in Science, Engineering & Technology. I am conducting a omparative analysis of the ethics and policy debates clouding biological control introductions in the US, New Zealand, and South Africa. I am writing up my findings, which are extensive. Here is an article I wrote for Public Understanding of Science Manipulating risk communication: value predispositions shape public understandings of invasive species science in Hawaii. Elements were republished in “How Strawberry Guava Biocontrol was Derailed in Hawaii” in Biocontrol News and Information 34(3), 25N–26N.

Dr. Frank Howarth, in the entomology section of the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, raised ethical questions about introducing novel control agents






Visiting Working for Water in South Africa

I wrote about the importance of public understanding and support for biological control as a public interest science, which was published in the proceedings of the XIIth International Symposium for the Biological Control of Weeds in Montpellier, France, 2007: What Every Biocontrol Researcher Should Know About the Public. I attended the Biocontrol For Nature symposium in October 2010, and contributed Fighting pathophobia: how to construct constructive public engagement with biocontrol for nature without augmenting public fears which is forthcoming in Biocontrol. I wrote a book chapter titled Understanding Public Risk Perception for the Use of Beneficial Microorganisms which appeared in Beneficial Microorganisms in Agriculture, Food and the Environment, edited by I. Sundh, A. Wilcks and M.S. Goettel (CAB International, 2012). At the XIII International Symposium on Biological Control of Weeds in Hawaii, I presented: Public Engagement with Biological Control of Invasive Plants: The State of the Question.

Research in agroecology

You can read the intro and chapter 1 from my book here. Here's a nifty flyer to share with your friends. Agriculture & Human Values (2008) published a very nice book review. Here some other reviews: Crop Science (2008) 48: 1642-3; Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems (2008) 23: 336-337; Agricultural Systems (2008) 98: 228; Rural Sociology (2008) 73: 1, 134–146.
Farm Advisor Roger Duncan leads an Almond field day about pesticide reduction  

Here is an article published in the January 2010 edition of Bioscience, coauthored with Nick Jordan, titled: Enhancing the Multifunctionality of US Agriculture. I was particularly pleased that Stephen Gliessman, an old UCSC teacher of mine, recommended our approach in his editorial "Landscape Multifunctionality and Agriculture" in the Journal of Sustainable Agriculture 34(5) 465.

I contributed to a policy forum article addressing the problems of the biofuel gold rush recommending instead the "Sustainable Development of the Agricultural Bio-Economy," published in the journal Science June 15, 2007. I co-presented with him at the AAAS in February 2006, which was a lot of fun.

Agroecology as Participatory Science: Emerging Alternatives to Technology Transfer Extension Practice in Science, Technology & Human Values in December 2008.

With Jenny Broome I coauthored an article in the special sustainable winegrape issue of California Agriculture: Agro-environmental partnerships facilitate sustainable wine-grape production and assessment

The quality of sustainability: Agroecological partnerships and the geographic branding of California winegrapes. Journal of Rural Studies. 23, 142–155. 2007

Extending agroecology: Grower participation in partnerships is key to social learning. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 21(2); 84–94. 2006

Integrated Farming Systems and Pollution Prevention Initiatives Stimulate Co-Learning Extension Strategies. Journal of Extension 44 (5) October 2006

Agroecology in Action: How USEPA Links Policy with Practice by Supporting the Extension of Integrated Farming Systems. Proceedings from the Conference on the Future of Agriculture, Sacramento, California. 87-100. August 2006.

This is Cliff Ohmart, a leading figure in sustainable agriculture practices and outreach. He helped transform the way winegrape growers in California think about sustainability. I don't think he gets enough credit for all the creative and dynamic work he has done for two decades in this area.

I discussed what I tried to do in my dissertation and book in this SAREP newsletter (winter 2008--see page 10). Here is the methods section from my dissertation, in which I explain how I gathered and analyzed my data.

Here is a review in Vegetable (French)

I like this picture too because Marcia did a ton of work helping growers transition to more agroecological practices, and she is talking to Everet Deke Detriech, a pioneer in this field.






For information regarding this website please contact Keith Douglass Warner OFM
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