ABSTRACT: Loss in seed yield and therefore decrease in plant fitness due to simultaneous attacks by multiple herbivores is not necessarily additive, as demonstrated in evolutionary studies on wild plants. However, it is not clear how this transfers to crop plants that grow in very different conditions compared to wild plants. Nevertheless, loss in crop seed yield caused by any single pest is most often studied in isolation although crop plants are attacked by many pests that can cause substantial yield losses. This is especially important for crops able to compensate and even overcompensate for the damage. We investigated the interactive impacts on crop yield of four insect pests attacking different plant parts at different times during the cropping season. In 15 oilseed rape fields in Sweden, we estimated the damage caused by seed and stem weevils, pollen beetles, and pod midges. Pest pressure varied drastically among fields with very low correlation among pests, allowing us to explore interactive impacts on yield from attacks by multiple species. The plant damage caused by each pest species individually had, as expected, either no, or a negative impact on seed yield and the strongest negative effect was caused by pollen beetles. However, seed yield increased when plant damage caused by both seed and stem weevils was high, presumably due to the joint plant compensatory reaction to insect attack leading to overcompensation. Hence, attacks by several pests can change the impact on yield of individual pest species. Economic thresholds based on single species, on which pest management decisions currently rely, may therefore result in economically suboptimal choices being made and unnecessary excessive use of insecticides.
Project description:Common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) is an important food and cash crop in many countries. Bean crop yields in sub-Saharan Africa are on average 50% lower than the global average, which is largely due to severe problems with pests and diseases as well as poor soil fertility exacerbated by low-input smallholder production systems. Recent on-farm research in eastern Africa has shown that commonly available plants with pesticidal properties can successfully manage arthropod pests. However, reducing common bean yield gaps still requires further sustainable solutions to other crop provisioning services such as soil fertility and plant nutrition. Smallholder farmers using pesticidal plants have claimed that the application of pesticidal plant extracts boosts plant growth, potentially through working as a foliar fertiliser. Thus, the aims of the research presented here were to determine whether plant growth and yield could be enhanced and which metabolic processes were induced through the application of plant extracts commonly used for pest control in eastern Africa. Extracts from Tephrosia vogelii and Tithonia diversifolia were prepared at a concentration of 10% w/v and applied to potted bean plants in a pest-free screen house as foliar sprays as well as directly to the soil around bean plants to evaluate their contribution to growth, yield and potential changes in primary or secondary metabolites. Outcomes of this study showed that the plant extracts significantly increased chlorophyll content, the number of pods per plant and overall seed yield. Other increases in metabolites were observed, including of rutin, phenylalanine and tryptophan. The plant extracts had a similar effect to a commercially available foliar fertiliser whilst the application as a foliar spray was better than applying the extract to the soil. These results suggest that pesticidal plant extracts can help overcome multiple limitations in crop provisioning services, enhancing plant nutrition in addition to their established uses for crop pest management.
Project description:Ecological intensification provides opportunity to increase agricultural productivity while minimizing negative environmental impacts, by supporting ecosystem services such as crop pollination and biological pest control. For this we need to develop targeted management solutions that provide critical resources to service-providing organisms at the right time and place. We tested whether annual strips of early flowering phacelia Phacelia tanacetifolia support pollinators and natural enemies of seed weevils Protapion spp., by attracting and offering nectar and pollen before the crop flowers. This was expected to increase yield of red clover Trifolium pratense seed. We monitored insect pollinators, pests, natural enemies and seed yields in a total of 50 clover fields along a landscape heterogeneity gradient, over 2 years and across two regions in southern Sweden. About half of the fields were sown with flower strips of 125-2,000 m2. The clover fields were pollinated by 60% bumble bees Bombus spp. and 40% honey bees Apis mellifera. The clover seed yield was negatively associated with weevil density, but was unrelated to bee species richness and density. Flower strips enhanced bumble bees species richness in the clover fields, with the strongest influence in heterogeneous landscapes. There were few detectable differences between crop fields with and without flower strips. However, long-tongued bumble bees were redistributed toward field interiors and during phacelia bloom honey bees toward field edges. Clover seed yield also increased with increasing size of the flower strip. We conclude that annual flower strips of early flower resources can support bumble bee species richness and, if sufficiently large, possibly also increase crop yields. However, clover seed yield was mainly limited by weevil infestation, which was not influenced by the annual flower strips. A future goal should be to design targeted measures for pest control.
Project description:Farming activity severely impacts the invertebrate food resources of farmland birds, with direct mortality to populations of above-ground arthropods thorough mechanical damage during crop harvests. In this study we assessed the effects of phenological periods, including the timing of harvest, on the composition and biomass of prey consumed by three species of aerial insectivorous birds. Common Swifts Apus apus, Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica and House Martins Delichon urbica breed sympatrically and most of their diet is obtained from agricultural sources of invertebrate prey, especially from oil-seed rape crops. We categorized invertebrate prey into six functional groups, including oil-seed rape pests; pests of other arable crops; other crop-provisioned taxa; coprophilous taxa; and taxa living in non-crop and mixed crop/non-crop habitats. Seasonality impacted functional groups differently, but the general direction of change (increase/decrease) of all groups was consistent as indexed by prey composition of the three aerial insectivores studied here. After the oil-seed rape crop harvest (mid July), all three species exhibited a dietary shift from oil-seed rape insect pests to other aerial invertebrate prey groups. However, Common Switfts also consumed a relative large quantity of oil-seed rape insect pests in the late summer (August), suggesting that they could reduce pest insect emigration beyond the host plant/crop. Since these aerially foraging insectivorous birds operate in specific conditions and feed on specific pest resources unavailable to foliage/ground foraging avian predators, our results suggest that in some crops like oil-seed rape cultivations, the potential integration of the insectivory of aerial foraging birds into pest management schemes might provide economic benefits. We advise further research into the origin of airborne insects and the role of aerial insectivores as agents of the biological control of crop insect pests, especially the determination of depredation rates and the cascading effects of insectivory on crop damage and yield.
Project description:Agricultural soil pests, including wireworms (Coleoptera: Elateridae), are managed primarily with pesticides applied directly to seeds before sowing. Seeds coated with neonicotinoids have been used widely in Quebec (Canada) for several years. To assess the agronomic and economic value of neonicotinoid seed treatments in soybeans and corn in Quebec, trials were conducted from 2012 to 2016 in 84 fields across seven regions in Quebec. We evaluated the effect of neonicotinoid seed treatments on soil pest densities, crop damage and yield. The results showed that 92.6% of corn fields and 69.0% of soybean fields had less than 1 wireworm per bait trap. However, no significant differences in plant stand or yield were observed between treated and untreated corn or soybeans during the study. This study shows that neonicotinoid seed treatments in field crops in Quebec are useful in less than 5% of cases, given the very low level of pest-associated pressure and damage, and that they should not be used prophylactically. Integrated pest management (IPM) strategies need to be developed for soil insect pests to offer effective alternative solutions to producers.
Project description:Seed weevils (Bruchus spp.) are major pests of faba bean, causing yield losses, and affecting marketability. Our objective was to identify stable sources of resistance to seed weevil attacks, determine the climatic factors that most influenced its incidence and its relationship with some phenological and agronomic traits. The accessions "BOBICK ROD115," "CÔTE D'OR," "221516," and "NOVA GRADISKA" showed increased resistance to penetration and development of larvae. Other accessions such as "QUASAR," "109.669," and "223303" exhibited resistance to larval development. The results of this work suggest the presence of different defense mechanisms to seed weevils in faba bean, which in the future could be introgressed in elite cultivars to create resistant varieties and contribute to more sustainable agriculture with less need for pesticides. The temperature, rainfall, and humidity seemed to be the climatic factors most influencing faba bean seed weevil attack while the precocity and the small weight of the seeds were correlated with lower infestation rates in the different experiments.
Project description:Sweetpotato (Ipomea batatans) is a food crop of global significance. The storage roots and foliage of crop are attacked by a wide range of pests and diseases. Whilst these are generally well controlled in developed countries using approaches such as clean planting material and monitoring with pheromone traps to guide insecticide use, research into methods suitable for developing countries has lagged. In Papua New Guinea (PNG), sweetpotato is grown extensively as a subsistence crop and commercial production as a cash crop is developing. We report results from a survey of 33 smallholder producers located in the Highlands of PNG where the crop is of particular importance. Surveys of interviewees' crops showed high levels of pest and disease impact to foliage, stems and storage roots, especially in crops that were several years old. Weevils (Curculionidae) were reportedly the most damaging pests and scab (caused by the fungus Elisnoe batatus) the most damaging disease. Most producers reported root damage from the former and foliar damage from the latter but the general level of knowledge of pest and disease types was low. Despite the apparency of pest and disease signs and symptoms and recognition of their importance by farmers, a large majority of producers reported practiced no active pest or disease management. This was despite low numbers of farmers reporting use of traditional cultural practices including phytosanitary measures and insecticidal plants that had the scope for far wider use. Only one respondent reported use of insecticide though pesticides were available in nearby cities. This low level of pest and disease management in most cases, likely due to paucity in biological and technical knowledge among growers, hampers efforts to establish food security and constrains the development of sweetpotato as a cash crop.
Project description:The incorporation of entomopathogenic fungi as biocontrol agents into Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs without doubt, has been highly effective. The ability of these fungal pathogens such as Beauveria bassiana and Metarhizium anisopliae to exist as endophytes in plants and protect their colonized host plants against the primary herbivore pests has widely been reported. Aside this sole role of pest management that has been traditionally ascribed to fungal endophytes, recent findings provided evidence of other possible functions as plant yield promoter, soil nutrient distributor, abiotic stress and drought tolerance enhancer in plants. However, reports on these additional important effects of fungal endophytes on the colonized plants remain scanty. In this review, we discussed the various beneficial effects of endophytic fungi on the host plants and their primary herbivore pests; as well as some negative effects that are relatively unknown. We also highlighted the prospects of our findings in further increasing the acceptance of fungal endophytes as an integral part of pest management programs for optimized crop production.
Project description:Agroecosystem plant diversification can enhance pest biological regulation and is a promising alternative to pesticide application. However, the costs of competition for resources between plants may exceed the benefits gained by pest regulation. To disentangle the interactions between pest regulation and competition, we developed a generic process-based approach that accounts for the effects of an associated plant and leaf and root pests on biomass production. We considered three crop-plant associations that differ in competition profiles, and we simulated biomass production under wide ranges of both pest regulation rates and resources' availability. We analyzed outputs to quantify the pest regulation service level that would be required to attain monoculture yield and other production goals. Results showed that pest regulation requirements were highly dependent on the profile of resource interception of the associated plant and on resources' availability. Pest regulation and the magnitude of competition between plants interacted in determining the balance between nitrogen and radiation uptake by the crop. Our findings suggest that productivity of diversified agroecosystems relative to monoculture should be optimized by assembling plants whose characteristics balance crops' resource acquisition. The theoretical insights from our study draw generic rules for vegetation assemblage to optimize trade-offs between pest regulation and production. Our findings and approach may have implications in understanding, theorizing and implementing agroecosystem diversification. By its generic and adaptable structure, our approach should be useful for studying the effects of diversification in many agroecosystems.
Project description:Cotton possesses certain physical features, including leaf and stem trichomes that help plants deter damage caused by insect pests, and to some extent, from abiotic factors as well. Among those features, trichomes (pubescence) hold a special place as a first line of defense and a managemental tool against sucking insect pests of cotton. Different insect pests of cotton (whiteflies, aphids, jassids, and boll weevil) severely damage the yield and quality of the crop. Likewise, whiteflies, aphids, jassids, and other insect pests are considered as potential carriers for cotton leaf curl viruses and other diseases. Genotyping by sequencing (GBS) study was conducted to understand and explore the genomic regions governing hairy (Pubescence) leaves and stem phenotypes. A total of 224 individuals developed from an intraspecific cross (densely haired cotton (Liaoyang duomao mian) × hairless cotton (Zong 128)) and characterized phenotypically for leaf and stem pubescence in different environments. Here we identify and report significant QTLs (quantitative trait loci) associated with leaf and stem pubescence, and the response of plant under pest (aphid) infestation. Further, we identified putative genes colocalized on chromosome A06 governing mechanism for trichome development and host-pest interaction. Our study provides a comprehensive insight into genetic architecture that can be employed to improve molecular marker-assisted breeding programs aimed at developing biotic (insect pests) resilient cotton cultivars.
Project description:Entomopathogenic fungi are widely recognized as agents of biological control worldwide. Their use in agriculture for the regulation of pest populations is a promising alternative to conventional insecticides. Furthermore, recent studies have shown that entomopathogenic fungi fulfill an additional role in plants as growth promoters. The purpose of this investigation was to assess the growth and yield of corn plants colonized with Beauveria bassiana and its effect on the lepidopteran pest Rachiplusia nu. Effects of the fungus on plant growth, crop yield, and vertical transmission were evaluated in the field. Feeding preferences of R. nu larvae were assessed in the laboratory using a "choice test". Corn plants inoculated with B. bassiana showed an increase in height, number of leaves, grain weight, yield, and percentage of seed germination compared to control plants. Consumption of B. bassiana-colonized corn plants by R. nu larvae was reduced compared to feeding levels observed on non-inoculated plants. This study showed that endophytic B. bassiana can provide multiple benefits to Zea mays and can play an important role in future integrated pest management programs.