Chilo partellus larvae by J van den Berg

To improve our collective capacity to model and measure the economic costs of pests, weeds and diseases of the major food crops of the world, CSIRO and HarvestChoice-UMN are delivering a series of ecological modeling workshops. The workshops primary goals are:

  • To teach participants the fundamentals of ecological niche modeling, along with a detailed introduction to the philosophy and mechanics of inferential and deductive modeling using CLIMEX.
  • To help course participants generate a suitably documented model and geo-spatial map for a high-profile pest species (insect, disease or weed).

Participants are encouraged to develop the maps and models to publication standards for distribution via the HarvestChoice website and other outlets.

For a pest profile example, “Chilo partellus” developed by Hutchinson, Venette, Bergvinson and van den Berg, 2008.

Pest Models and Maps Uses

The CLIMEX niche models developed by HarvestChoice are targeted towards informing strategic management and policy decisions. They are also being used as input into bioeconomic modeling for pest risk assessments, considering factors such as the distribution of affected crops (, distance to markets, and the costs of agricultural inputs like fertiliser.

The niche models will also inform global biosecurity. While many of the major crop pests have spread across most continents, in tandem with the spread of their crop plant hosts, not all have done so. Importantly, the risks of economic losses vary spatially from continent to continent and within countries so that geo-spatially calibrated perspectives on the prevalence and persistence of crop pests is of vital importance. Ecological niche maps can identify those areas where the pest could establish, and those areas where it may only be able to maintain an ephemeral presence during favourable seasons. When combined with knowledge of the distribution of its host, and the pattern of economic impacts, pest risk analysts can produce maps highlighting endangered areas (in the parlance of the International Standards for Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures).

Trans-Atlantic Workshops: Africa and America

The first CLIMEX pest risk modeling workshop was held at the University of Pretoria July 2-6, 2012. Eleven participants from Africa and one from South America developed models for 14 pest species. Mark Robertson (University of Pretoria, Department of Zoology and Entomology) helped facilitate the course which was led by Darren Kriticos and Tania Yonow. By all accounts, the course was an outstanding success.

The University of Minnesota hosts a second workshop in August 2012.


HarvestChoice, 2012. "Two for the Price of One: Training Crop Pest Modelers While Building New Maps." International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, DC., and University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN. Available online at

Aug 4, 2012