Agricultural landscape simplification and insecticide use in the Midwestern United States.
ABSTRACT: Agronomic intensification has transformed many agricultural landscapes into expansive monocultures with little natural habitat. A pervasive concern is that such landscape simplification results in an increase in insect pest pressure, and thus an increased need for insecticides. We tested this hypothesis across a range of cropping systems in the Midwestern United States, using remotely sensed land cover data, data from a national census of farm management practices, and data from a regional crop pest monitoring network. We found that, independent of several other factors, the proportion of harvested cropland treated with insecticides increased with the proportion and patch size of cropland and decreased with the proportion of seminatural habitat in a county. We also found a positive relationship between the proportion of harvested cropland treated with insecticides and crop pest abundance, and a positive relationship between crop pest abundance and the proportion cropland in a county. These results provide broad correlative support for the hypothesized link between landscape simplification, pest pressure, and insecticide use. Using regression coefficients from our analysis, we estimate that, across the seven-state region in 2007, landscape simplification was associated with insecticide application to 1.4 million hectares and an increase in direct costs totaling between $34 and $103 million. Both the direct and indirect environmental costs of landscape simplification should be considered in design of land use policy that balances multiple ecosystem goods and services.
Project description:Simplification of agricultural landscapes is expected to have positive effects on many crop pests and negative effects on their natural enemies, potentially leading to increased pest pressure, decreased crop yield, and increased insecticide use. While many intermediate links in this causal chain have empirical support, there is mixed evidence for ultimate relationships between landscape simplification, crop yield, and insecticide use, especially at large spatial and temporal scales. We explored relationships between landscape simplification (proportion of a county in harvested cropland) and insecticide use (proportion of harvested cropland treated with insecticides), using county-level data from the US Census of Agriculture and a variety of standard and spatiotemporal regression techniques. The best model indicated that insecticide use across the US has increased between 1997 and 2012, was strongly dependent on the crops grown in a county, increased with average farm income and size, and increased with annual growing degree days. After accounting for those variables, and other unidentified spatial and temporal structure in the data, there remained a statistically significant, moderate, positive relationship between insecticide use and landscape simplification. These results lend general support to the causal chain outlined above, and to the notion that a landscape perspective is useful for managing ecosystem services that are provided by mobile organisms and valuable to agriculture.
Project description:The increase in agricultural production over the past 40 y has greatly altered land-use patterns, often resulting in simplified landscapes composed of large swaths of monocultures separated by small fragments of natural lands. These simplified landscapes may be more susceptible to insect pest pressure because of the loss of natural enemies and the increased size and connectivity of crop resources, and a recent analysis from a single year (2007) suggests this increased susceptibility results in increased insecticide use. I broaden the temporal analysis of this connection between landscape simplification and insecticide use by examining cross-sectional and panel data models from multiple decades (US Department of Agriculture Census of Agriculture years 2007, 2002, 1997, 1992, 1987) for seven Midwestern states composed of over 560 counties. I find that although the proportion of county in cropland--my metric for landscape simplification--was positively correlated with insecticide use in 2007, this relationship is absent or reversed in prior census years and when all years are analyzed together. This broader temporal perspective suggests that landscape simplification has inconsistent effects on insecticide use and that multiyear studies will be key to unlocking the true drivers of variation in insecticide application.
Project description:Biological pest control by natural enemies is an important component of sustainable crop production. Among biological control approaches, natural enemy augmentation is an effective alternative when naturally occurring enemies are not sufficiently abundant or effective. However, it remains unknown whether the effectiveness of augmentative biocontrol varies along gradients of landscape composition, and how the interactions with resident enemies may modulate the collective impact on pest suppression. By combining field and lab experiments, we evaluated how landscape composition influenced the effectiveness of predator augmentation, and the consequences on pest abundance, plant damage, and crop biomass. We show for the first time that the effectiveness of predator augmentation is landscape-dependent. In complex landscapes, with less cropland area, predator augmentation increased predation rates, reduced pest abundance and plant damage, and increased crop biomass. By contrast, predator releases in simple landscapes had a negative effect on pest control, increasing plant damage and reducing crop biomass. Results from the lab experiment further suggested that landscape simplification can lead to greater interference among predators, causing a decrease in predator foraging efficiency. Our results indicate that landscape composition influence the effectiveness of augmentative biocontrol by modulating interactions between the introduced predators and the local enemy community.
Project description:Landscape-scale intensification of individual crops and pesticide use that is associated with this intensification is an emerging, environmental problem that is expected to have unequal effects on pests with different lifecycles, host ranges, and dispersal abilities. We investigate if intensification of a single crop in an agroecosystem has a direct effect on insecticide resistance in a specialist insect herbivore. Using a major potato pest, Leptinotarsa decemlineata, we measured imidacloprid (neonicotinoid) resistance in populations across a spatiotemporal crop production gradient where potato production has increased in Michigan and Wisconsin, USA. We found that concurrent estimates of area and temporal frequency of potato production better described patterns of imidacloprid resistance among L. decemlineata populations than general measures of agricultural production (% cropland, landscape diversity). This study defines the effects individual crop rotation patterns can have on specialist herbivore insecticide resistance in an agroecosystem context, and how impacts of intensive production can be estimated with general estimates of insecticide use. Our results provide empirical evidence that variation in the intensity of neonicotinoid-treated potato in an agricultural landscape can have unequal impacts on L. decemlineata insecticide insensitivity, a process that can lead to resistance and locally intensive insecticide use. Our study provides a novel approach applicable in other agricultural systems to estimate impacts of crop rotation, increased pesticide dependence, insecticide resistance, and external costs of pest management practices on ecosystem health.
Project description:Driven by factors such as an increased reliance on genetically modified crops, government policies, and market forces, the crop mix in South Dakota and elsewhere in the United States has become less diverse and moved toward the production of corn and soybeans as the most predominant cash crops over the past two decades. Coinciding with a reduced complexity of crop rotation practices, the prevalence of mono-cropping has increased and crop chemical usage has changed as well. Overall, the reduced reliance on traditional crop rotation practices for mitigating pests corresponds with an increase in crop acres treated with insecticides, expressed as a proportion of total cropland acres, and referred to in the literature as the extensive usage of insecticides. In this paper, we identify how changing cropping patterns in South Dakota have affected the extensive usage of insecticides, an aspect often overlooked by producers and policy makers. Results indicate that increased corn production has contributed to an increase in the share of cropland acres treated with insecticides at the county level in eastern South Dakota.
Project description:Biomass crops grown on marginal soils are expected to fuel an emerging bioenergy industry in the United States. Bioenergy crop choice and position in the landscape could have important impacts on a range of ecosystem services, including natural pest-suppression (biocontrol services) provided by predatory arthropods. In this study we use predation rates of three sentinel crop pests to develop a biocontrol index (BCI) summarizing pest-suppression potential in corn and perennial grass-based bioenergy crops in southern Wisconsin, lower Michigan, and northern Illinois. We show that BCI is higher in perennial grasslands than in corn, and increases with the amount of perennial grassland in the surrounding landscape. We develop an empirical model for predicting BCI from information on energy crop and landscape characteristics, and use the model in a qualitative assessment of changes in biocontrol services for annual croplands on prime agricultural soils under two contrasting bioenergy scenarios. Our analysis suggests that the expansion of annual energy crops onto 1.2 million ha of existing perennial grasslands on marginal soils could reduce BCI between -10 and -64% for nearly half of the annual cropland in the region. In contrast, replacement of the 1.1 million ha of existing annual crops on marginal land with perennial energy crops could increase BCI by 13 to 205% on over half of the annual cropland in the region. Through comparisons with other independent studies, we find that our biocontrol index is negatively related to insecticide use across the Midwest, suggesting that strategically positioned, perennial bioenergy crops could reduce insect damage and insecticide use on neighboring food and forage crops. We suggest that properly validated environmental indices can be used in decision support systems to facilitate integrated assessments of the environmental and economic impacts of different bioenergy policies.
Project description:Heavy reliance on pesticide inputs to maintain crop yields has been an important aspect of agricultural intensification. Insecticide use has had detrimental impacts on pollinators and natural pest control agents, contributing to a decline in associated ecosystem services, and has also led to resistance development in pest populations. Throughout Europe, in oilseed rape (<i>Brassica napus</i> L.) crops, prophylactic use of insecticides against pollen beetles (<i>Meligethes aeneus</i> F. also known as <i>Brassicogethes aeneus</i>) has led to such issues, and there is an urgent need to develop more sustainable pest management practices for the crop. Although advice is available to oilseed rape growers regarding control thresholds, it may not be adhered to due to the expense of pollen beetle monitoring relative to the inexpensive cost of pyrethroid insecticides. Thus, the key to reducing prophylactic insecticide applications may lie with improved, less labour intensive methods of pollen beetle monitoring. For these to be realized, a better understanding is needed of the effects of agri-landscape features and meteorological conditions on pollen beetle immigration into the crop. In this study, based on data from four years of pollen beetle monitoring on a total of 41 field sites, we model the effects of meteorological (wind speed and direction, rainfall and accumulated temperature) and landscape (areas of woodland, residential gardens, the current and previous seasons' oilseed rape crops, and lengths of hedgerows and treelines) variables on directional sticky trap catches, at both the single trap and field scales. Meteorological variables, particularly accumulated temperature and wind speed were more important than landscape variables in predicting the abundance of pollen beetles immigrating into OSR fields. Sticky traps that were facing downwind caught more beetles than those that were facing across-wind or upwind; this is the first study to show at a landscape-scale, direct evidence for use of upwind anemotaxis by pollen beetles at the point of entry during immigration into the crop. At the field scale, the area of oilseed rape grown in the previous season was found to be positively related to trap catch, but no relationships with other landscape variables were found. Optimally-placed monitoring traps could complement existing decision support systems to reduce pollen beetle monitoring effort and encourage use of insecticides only when control thresholds are breached, thus enhancing the sustainability of oilseed rape production. Knowledge of the area of oilseed rape crops grown during the previous season in the surrounding landscape could contribute to risk assessment of potential pest pressure for individual OSR crops.
Project description:Diversifying agricultural landscapes may mitigate biodiversity declines and improve pest management. Yet landscapes are rarely managed to suppress pests, in part because researchers seldom measure key variables related to pest outbreaks and insecticides that drive management decisions. We used a 13-year government database to analyse landscape effects on European grapevine moth (Lobesia botrana) outbreaks and insecticides across c. 400 Spanish vineyards. At harvest, we found pest outbreaks increased four-fold in simplified, vineyard-dominated landscapes compared to complex landscapes in which vineyards are surrounded by semi-natural habitats. Similarly, insecticide applications doubled in vineyard-dominated landscapes but declined in vineyards surrounded by shrubland. Importantly, pest population stochasticity would have masked these large effects if numbers of study sites and years were reduced to typical levels in landscape pest-control studies. Our results suggest increasing landscape complexity may mitigate pest populations and insecticide applications. Habitat conservation represents an economically and environmentally sound approach for achieving sustainable grape production.
Project description:Habitat simplification and intensive use of pesticides are main drivers of global arthropod declines and are, thus, decreasing natural pest control. Organic farming, complex landscapes, and local vineyard management practices such as implementation of flower-rich cover-crop mixtures may be a promising approach to enhance predator abundance and, therefore, natural pest control. We examined the effect of organic versus integrated management, cover-crop diversity in the vineyard inter-rows, and landscape composition on the natural pest control of <i>Lobesia botrana</i> eggs and pupae. Predation of <i>L. botrana</i> pupae was reduced by organic farming and species-poor cover-crops by about 10%. Predation rates of <i>L. botrana</i> eggs did not differ significantly in any of the studied management options. Dominant predators were earwigs (Forficulidae), bush crickets (Tettigoniidae), and ants (Formicidae). Negative effects of organic viticulture are most likely related to the negative nontarget effects on arthropods related to the frequent sulfur and copper applications in combination with the avoidance of strongly damaging insecticides by integrated winegrowers. While a 10% difference in predation rates on a single pest stage is unlikely to have strong practical implications, our results show that the assumed effectiveness of environmentally friendly agriculture needs to be evaluated for specific crops and regions.
Project description:Field evolved resistance to insecticides is one of the main challenges in pest control. The fall armyworm (FAW) is a lepidopteran pest species causing severe crop losses, especially corn. While native to the Americas, the presence of FAW was confirmed in West Africa in 2016. Since then, the FAW has been detected in over 70 countries covering sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Oceania. In this study, we tested whether this invasion was accompanied by the spread of resistance mutations from native to invasive areas. We observed that mutations causing Bt resistance at ABCC2 genes were observed only in native populations where the mutations were initially reported. Invasive populations were found to have higher gene numbers of cytochrome P450 genes than native populations and a higher proportion of multiple resistance mutations at acetylcholinesterase genes, supporting strong selective pressure for resistance against synthetic insecticides. This result explains the susceptibility to Bt insecticides and resistance to various synthetic insecticides in Chinese populations. These results highlight the necessity of regular and standardized monitoring of insecticide resistance in invasive populations using both genomic approaches and bioassay experiments.