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Ecological pest control fortifies agricultural growth in Asia–Pacific economies

An Author Correction to this article was published on 08 September 2020

This article has been updated


The Green Revolution is credited with alleviating famine, mitigating poverty and driving aggregate economic growth since the 1960s. In Asia, high-input technology packages secured a tripling of rice output, with germplasm improvements providing benefits beyond US$4.3 billion yr–1. Here, we unveil the magnitude and macro-economic relevance of parallel nature-based contributions to productivity growth in non-rice crops over the period 1918–2018 (across 23 different Asia–Pacific geopolitical entities). We empirically demonstrate how biological control resolved invasive pest threats in multiple agricultural commodities, ensuring annually accruing (on-farm) benefits of US$14.6–19.5 billion yr–1. Scientifically guided biological control of 43 exotic invertebrate pests permitted 73–100% yield-loss recovery in critical food, feed and fibre crops including banana, breadfruit, cassava and coconut. Biological control thereby promoted rural growth and prosperity even in marginal, poorly endowed, non-rice environments. By placing agro-ecological innovations on equal footing with input-intensive measures, our work provides lessons for future efforts to mitigate invasive species, restore ecological resilience and sustainably raise output of global agrifood systems.

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Fig. 1: Timeline of insect biological control introductions across the Asia–Pacific region (26 countries).
Fig. 2: Insect natural enemies and their related pest targets, as used in historic biological control programmes in the Asia–Pacific region.
Fig. 3: Aggregated annual economic value (million US$) of biological control interventions conducted across the Asia–Pacific over the period 1918–2018.
Fig. 4: Differential growth trajectories of agricultural subsectors (food staple and non-staple crops) for selected geopolitical entities, over the period 1961–2016.
Fig. 5: Time paths of land productivity (or yield) growth for different agricultural crops, over a 1961–2016 window.

Data availability

Data underlying the analyses are made available through Dryad Digital Repository at

Change history

  • 08 September 2020

    An amendment to this paper has been published and can be accessed via a link at the top of the paper.


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The development of this manuscript and its underlying research were partially funded through the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) HORT/2016/185. This work also received funding through the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant no. 31701798) and the Key R&D plan of Zhejiang Province (grant no. 2018C04G2011264). The maintenance of BIOCAT, FEW and MC inputs were supported by the CABI Development Fund (comprising contributions from ACIAR, the UK Department for International Development, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and others). CABI is an international intergovernmental organization and gratefully acknowledges the core financial support from its member countries; see for details.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



K.A.G.W. conceived and designed the experimental approach. K.A.G.W. performed trials and collected the data. K.A.G.W., Y.L. and W.Z. analysed the data. K.A.G.W., Y.L., W.Z., M.J.W.C., S.E.N., A.F., F.E.W. and M.J.F. co-wrote the paper.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Kris A. G. Wyckhuys, Yanhui Lu or Wenwu Zhou.

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Competing interests

K.A.G.W. is chief executive officer of Chrysalis Consulting, a firm that provides tailored support to biological control and biodiversity-friendly agriculture initiatives. The other authors declare no competing interests.

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Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Extended data

Extended Data Fig. 1 Country-level economic impact (US $) of historic pest invasions that were either partially or completely resolved through biological control.

For each country or geopolitical entity, the size of the red circle reflects the aggregate annual monetary impact of invasive crop pests over 1918–2018. Country-specific pie charts indicate the exact portfolio of commodities that benefited from invertebrate biological control, with the size of each slice reflecting the economic impact of respective pest invaders.

Extended Data Fig. 2 Economic value of historic BC-mediated invasive pest mitigation, as aggregated per country and agriculture subsector.

Annual monetary benefits are exclusively shown for a ‘high impact’ scenario - comprising invasive insect pests that were either partially or fully controlled through biological control, over 1918–2018. For each country, log-transformed impact values are calculated per agriculture sub-sector and stacked. Oilseed crops include coconut and oilpalm; root crops cover cassava and taro; while orchard crops cover banana, breadfruit, cocoa, coffee and a range of perennial or annual fruit crops.

Extended Data Fig. 3 Historical trends in land and labour productivity across the Asia-Pacific region and for the Melanesia island group specifically (1961–2016).

Agricultural output is expressed as the total value of agricultural production in 2004–2006 average purchasing power parity (PPP) agricultural prices (i.e., international dollars). Patterns are shown in panel a and b for different groups of countries / geopolitical entities. For most nations, agricultural employment figures were only be available from 1991 onward.

Extended Data Fig. 4 Interdecadal growth spurts of distinct agricultural subsectors (that is, food staple, non-staple crops) for selected geopolitical entities within the Asia-Pacific region, over 1961–2016.

Inter-decadal patterns are presented for geopolitical entities that either rely upon rice (top) or root & tuber crops (i.e., taro, sweet potato; bottom) as primary food staples. Within each heat map, proportional changes in the relative growth of food staple and non-staple crops over successive decades are depicted by a color scale. Bluer tones reflect relatively rapid growth of the staple crop output, while redder tones mirror more rapid growth of non-staple crops. Agricultural output is expressed in monetary terms, as total value of agricultural production (2004–2006 average PPP $; FAO 2019).

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Wyckhuys, K.A.G., Lu, Y., Zhou, W. et al. Ecological pest control fortifies agricultural growth in Asia–Pacific economies. Nat Ecol Evol 4, 1522–1530 (2020).

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