Vittorio Delucchi †


The Biocontrol and IPM community has lost one of its most prominent figures of the past 60 years: Prof Vittorio Delucchi passed away on November 26, 2015 at the age of 90.

He started his scientific career in 1949 at the European Laboratory of the Commonwealth Institute of Biological Control (CIBC) in Feldmeilen, Switzerland, known today as CABI Europe Centre in Delémont, Switzerland, where he soon became a specialist of the parasitoid families Pteromalidae and Eulophidae(Hym., Chalcidoidea). He was particularly interested in the taxonomy and rearing of natural enemies against the white-fir woolly aphid which had established as an invasive species in Canada. He became one of the pioneers in quantitative and qualitative ecology applied to natural regulation of pest populations.
Prof Delucchi continued his research career with FAO in Morocco for a number of years, and he evolved to a famous expert of citrus pests and their antagonists. He published his results in 1964 together with Henri Chapot in a book entitled “Maladies, troubles et ravageurs des agrumes au Maroc”. Delucchi left Morocco to become the head of the entomology division of FAO in Rome until 1968, when he was nominated ordinary professor of entomology at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETHZ) in Zurich. During his tenure until 1990, Vittorio Delucchi contributed immensely to the development of biological control and IPM. In his vision and approach of understanding and solving plant protection problems, he strongly promoted the holistic way by considering ‘pests’ as an integral part of the agro-ecosystem, and by contributing to their management in the IPM context. This approach was based on ecological principles of pest population dynamics, supported by efforts of his younger collaborators, post-docs and PhD students, in developing complex computer simulation modelling. This critical endeavor provided the basis to develop and deploy science-based approaches for solving continent-wide problems such as the cassava mealybug outbreak in Africa in the early 80s. Vittorio’s scholars and collaborators at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) were leading the biological control campaign against this invasive insect pest, today still considered one of the most successful biocontrol projects worldwide and internationally recognized by the prestigious World Food Price.

Vittorio Delucchi has been a founding member of the International Organization for Biological Control (IOBC) established in 1956. At the first plenary session of the IOBC in November 1956, Delucchi was appointed for two new functions: a) as Secretary of the newly established “Identification service for entomophagous insects” (presently called “Commission on determination and identification of entomophagous insects and insect pathogens”) and b) as Head of the Systematics sub-group of the newly founded “Documentation service”. With the two functions, he was nominated simultaneously member of the “Bureau Exécutif” which was responsible to guide and manage the IOBC for the first 12 years. A turning point in the early history of the IOBC was in 1968 when most of the old members of the “Bureau Exécutif” were replaced. Delucchi was now elected as Secretary General and served in this function until 1976. Consecutively, he was elected Treasurer (1977-1980) and President (1984-1988). Vittorio played a key role as Secretary General in the historic landmark of the IOBC in 1971 at the 5th General Assembly in Rome at FAO headquarters when the decision was taken to create IOBC Global and several Regional Sections to promote IOBC’s activities worldwide (for details see Boller E.F., van Lenteren J.C. & Delucchi V. (eds.) 2006. International Organization for Biological Control of Noxious Animals and Plants. History of the first 50 years, 1956-2006, pp. 12 – 23).
In all IOBC functions hold by Vittorio during the 28 years, he was passionately engaged for the worldwide promotion of biological control and IPM, at the same time warning of the unintended side-effects of inappropriate pesticide use. His innovative and critical thinking in plant protection will survive in the heart and gestures of his many scholars, and their own students and collaborators worldwide.

Franz Bigler and Markus Bieri

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