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Nation-States and the Global EnvironmentNew Approaches to International Environmental History$
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Erika Marie Bsumek, David Kinkela, and Mark Atwood Lawrence

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199755356

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199755356.001.0001

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Biological Control, Transnational Exchange, and the Construction of Environmental Thought in the United States, 1840–1920

Biological Control, Transnational Exchange, and the Construction of Environmental Thought in the United States, 1840–1920

Chapter:
(p.163) 8 Biological Control, Transnational Exchange, and the Construction of Environmental Thought in the United States, 1840–1920
Source:
Nation-States and the Global Environment
Author(s):

James E. McWilliams

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199755356.003.0009

This essay explores the attempt among North American entomologists and scientific farmers to develop biological methods of insect control in the United States between 1840 and 1920. Central to this effort was not only a willingness to experiment through trial-and error approaches but also acceptance of the constant introduction of foreign biomass. The process of manipulating the chaos of nature to create predictable agricultural responses conducive to mono-cultural production required cooperation at many levels: between professional entomologists and everyday farmers, between the USDA and foreign governments, and between cultivated and uncultivated landscapes separated by political but not ecological boundaries. The upshot of these efforts was the emergence of a federal program of biological control based on the introduction of alien plants and insects and, more tangibly, the highly publicized accomplishment of controlling the cottony cushion scale with beetles imported from Australia, bred in California, and released in citrus orchards. The quest to normalize biological control was effectively ended by World War I and the onslaught of chemical agents that segued all too easily from the trenches to the homefront.

Keywords:   entomology, u.s. department of agriculture, pesticides, farming, world war i, charles v. riley

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