Getting More Power from Your Flowers: Multi-Functional Flower Strips Enhance Pollinators and Pest Control Agents in Apple Orchards.
ABSTRACT: Flower strips are commonly recommended to boost biodiversity and multiple ecosystem services (e.g., pollination and pest control) on farmland. However, significant knowledge gaps remain regards the extent to which they deliver on these aims. Here, we tested the efficacy of flower strips that targeted different subsets of beneficial arthropods (pollinators and natural enemies) and their ecosystem services in cider apple orchards. Treatments included mixes that specifically targeted: (1) pollinators ('concealed-nectar plants'); (2) natural enemies ('open-nectar plants'); or (3) both groups concurrently (i.e., 'multi-functional' mix). Flower strips were established in alleyways of four orchards and compared to control alleyways (no flowers). Pollinator (e.g., bees) and natural enemy (e.g., parasitoid wasps, predatory flies and beetles) visitation to flower strips, alongside measures of pest control (aphid colony densities, sentinel prey predation), and fruit production, were monitored in orchards over two consecutive growing seasons. Targeted flower strips attracted either pollinators or natural enemies, whereas mixed flower strips attracted both groups in similar abundance to targeted mixes. Natural enemy densities on apple trees were higher in plots containing open-nectar plants compared to other treatments, but effects were stronger for non-aphidophagous taxa. Predation of sentinel prey was enhanced in all flowering plots compared to controls but pest aphid densities and fruit yield were unaffected by flower strips. We conclude that 'multi-functional' flower strips that contain flowering plant species with opposing floral traits can provide nectar and pollen for both pollinators and natural enemies, but further work is required to understand their potential for improving pest control services and yield in cider apple orchards.
Project description:Functional biodiversity is of fundamental importance for pest control. Many natural enemies rely on floral resources to complete their life cycle. Farmers need to ensure the availability of suitable and sufficient floral biodiversity. This review summarizes 66 studies on the management of floral biodiversity in apple orchards, published since 1986. Approaches followed different degrees of intervention: short-term practices (mowing regime and weed maintenance, cover crops), establishment of durable ecological infrastructures (perennial flower strips, hedgerows) and re-design of the crop system (intercropping, agroforestry). Although short-term practices did not always target the nutrition of natural enemies by flowering plants, living conditions for them (alternative prey, provision of habitat) were often improved. Perennial flower strips reliably enhanced natural enemies and techniques for their introduction continuously developed. Resident natural enemies and their impact in pest control reacted positively to the introduction of a more diversified vegetation, whereas the response of very mobile organisms was often not directly linked to the measures taken. A careful selection and management of plants with particular traits exploitable by most natural enemies emerged as a key-point for success. Now the elaborated design of such measures needs to be adopted by stakeholders and policy makers to encourage farmers to implement these measures in their orchards.
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:(1) Habitat management can enhance beneficial arthropod populations and provide ecosystem services such as biological control. However, the implementation of ecological infrastructures inside orchards has a number of practical limitations. Therefore, planting/growing insectary plants in the margins of orchards should be considered as an alternative approach. (2) Here, we assessed the efficacy of a flower margin composed by four insectary plant species (<i>Achillea millefolium</i>, <i>Lobularia maritima</i>, <i>Moricandia arvensis</i> and <i>Sinapis alba</i>), which was placed on an edge of four Mediterranean apple orchards to attract natural enemies of two apple tree aphids (<i>Dysaphis plantaginea</i> and <i>Eriosoma lanigerum</i>). We also characterized the natural enemies present in the aphid colonies. (3) Our results show that the implementation of a flower margin at the edge of apple orchards attracts predators (Syrphidae, Thysanoptera, Araneae, Heteroptera, Coleoptera) and parasitoids. Parasitoids are the main natural enemies present in aphid colonies in our area. (4) The implementation of the flower margins successfully recruited natural enemy populations, and the presence of parasitoids in the surroundings of the orchards increased the parasitism of <i>D. plantaginea</i> colonies.
Project description:Providing key resources to animals may enhance both their biodiversity and the ecosystem services they provide. We examined the performance of annual flower strips targeted at the promotion of natural pest control in winter wheat. Flower strips were experimentally sown along 10 winter wheat fields across a gradient of landscape complexity (i.e. proportion non-crop area within 750 m around focal fields) and compared with 15 fields with wheat control strips. We found strong reductions in cereal leaf beetle(CLB) density (larvae: 40%; adults of the second generation: 53%) and plant damage caused by CLB (61%) in fields with flower strips compared with control fields. Natural enemies of CLB were strongly increased in flower strips and in part also in adjacent wheat fields. Flower strip effects on natural enemies, pests and crop damage were largely independent of landscape complexity(8-75% non-crop area). Our study demonstrates a high effectiveness of annual flower strips in promoting pest control, reducing CLB pest levels below the economic threshold. Hence, the studied flower strip offers a viable alternative to insecticides. This highlights the high potential of tailored agri-environment schemes to contribute to ecological intensification and may encourage more farmers to adopt such schemes.
Project description:Climate change is altering the phenology of trophically linked organisms, leading to increased asynchrony between species with unknown consequences for ecosystem services. Although phenological mismatches are reported from several ecosystems, experimental evidence for altering multiple ecosystem services is hardly available. We examined how the phenological shift of apple trees affected the abundance and diversity of pollinators, generalist and specialist herbivores and predatory arthropods. We stored potted apple trees in the greenhouse or cold store in early spring before transferring them into orchards to cause mismatches and sampled arthropods on the trees repeatedly. Assemblages of pollinators on the manipulated and control trees differed markedly, but their overall abundance was similar indicating a potential insurance effect of wild bee diversity to ensure fruit set in flower-pollinator mismatch conditions. Specialized herbivores were almost absent from manipulated trees, while less-specialized ones showed diverse responses, confirming the expectation that more specialized interactions are more vulnerable to phenological mismatch. Natural enemies also responded to shifted apple tree phenology and the abundance of their prey. While arthropod abundances either declined or increased, species diversity tended to be lower on apple trees with shifted phenology. Our study indicates novel results on the role of biodiversity and specialization in plant-insect mismatch situations.
Project description:Production of many agricultural crops and fruits strongly depends on pollinators. For instance, pome fruits such as apple and pear are highly dependent on pollination for fruit set, fruit quality, and yield. Nectar is often inhabited by microbes, most often yeasts and bacteria, which may change nectar quality and therefore also affect plant-pollinator interactions. Here, we used high-throughput 16S ribosomal RNA gene amplicon sequencing to investigate the temporal and spatial variation in bacterial communities in floral nectar of apple and pear. We sampled 15 apple (Malus x domestica Borkh.) and 15 pear (Pyrus communis L.) orchards distributed over the eastern part of Belgium over a timespan of seven days. Nectar bacterial community composition differed strongly among fruit species. Nectar of pear was dominated by Actinobacteria, followed by Proteobacteria and Firmicutes. Apple nectar was strongly enriched in Bacteroidetes, a phylum which until now has been found to be rarely associated with floral nectar. Nectar was dominated by only a few bacterial species, with Brevibacterium (Actinobacteria) and Undibacterium (Proteobacteria) as the most abundant bacteria in pear and apple nectar, respectively. Bacterial richness and diversity were found to fluctuate during flowering, likely due to changing environmental conditions. Additionally, spatial structure in nectar bacterial community composition was found in apple orchards, while this was not the case for pear. Differences in nectar bacterial communities between apple and pear nectar may differently affect the chemical and nutritional composition of the nectar, influencing pollinator attraction and visitation, and thus pollination efficacy in general.
Project description:The decline of pollinators in agricultural areas has been observed for some decades, this being partly due to landscape simplification in intensive agrosystems. Diversifying agricultural landscapes by sowing flower strips within fields could reduce these adverse effects on biodiversity. In this context, the study presented here aimed at assessing and comparing the abundance and diversity of bees (Hymenoptera: Anthophila) and hoverflies (Diptera: Syrphidae) found and visiting flowers in three types of flower strips in Belgium: (i) a mixture of 11 wild flowers, (ii) a monofloral strip of Dimorphoteca pluvialis (Asteraceae) and (iii) a monofloral strip of Camelina sativa (Brassicaceae), where the last two are considered to be intercrops since they are valuable on the market, all sown within a field of winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.). Pollinators were captured with pan traps and by netting in standardised transects from May to July 2017. One-thousand one-hundred and eighty-four individuals belonging to 43 bee species and 18 hoverfly species were collected. Significant differences in hoverfly diversity were found between the different flower strips. The multifloral treatment supported a greater diversity of syrphid species. Various pollinator species visited the different flowers composing the mixture and also D. pluvialis. The pollinator community proved to be predominantly generalist, with the exception of an oligolectic species in Belgium, Andrena nitidiuscula. Moreover, the three tested flower strips were effective in attracting hoverflies, among them natural enemies of insect pests. This study opens new perspectives in the design of intercropping systems with flower strips towards the design of sustainable agro-ecosystems. Improving economic profitability of sowing flower strips could encourage farmers to diversify their agricultural systems and foster conservation biology strategies.
Project description:Spiders (Araneae) form abundant and diverse assemblages in agroecosystems such as fruit orchards, and thus might have an important role as natural enemies of orchard pests. Although spiders are polyphagous and opportunistic predators in general, limited information exists on their natural prey at both species and community levels. Thus, the aim of this study was to assess the natural prey (realized trophic niche) of arboreal hunting spiders, their role in trophic webs and their biological control potential with direct observation of predation events in apple orchards. Hunting spiders with prey in their chelicerae were collected in the canopy of apple trees in organic apple orchards in Hungary during the growing seasons between 2013 and 2019 and both spiders and their prey were identified and measured. Among others, the composition of the actual (captured by spiders) and the potential (available in the canopy) prey was compared, trophic niche and food web metrics were calculated, and some morphological, dimensional data of the spider-prey pairs were analyzed. Species-specific differences in prey composition or pest control ability were also discussed. By analyzing a total of 878 prey items captured by spiders, we concluded that arboreal hunting spiders forage selectively and consume a large number of apple pests; however, spiders' beneficial effects are greatly reduced by their high levels of intraguild predation and by a propensity to switch from pests to alternative prey. In this study, arboreal hunting spiders showed negative selectivity for pests, no selectivity for natural enemies and positive selectivity for neutral species. In the trophic web, the dominant hunting spider taxa/groups (Carrhotus xanthogramma, Philodromus cespitum, Clubiona spp., Ebrechtella tricuspidata, Xysticus spp. and 'Other salticids') exhibit different levels of predation on different prey groups and the trophic web's structure changes depending on the time of year. Hunting spiders show a high functional redundancy in their predation, but contrary to their polyphagous nature, the examined spider taxa showed differences in their natural diet, exhibited a certain degree of prey specialization and selected prey by size and taxonomic identity. Guilds (such as stalkers, ambushers and foliage runners) did not consistently predict either prey composition or predation selectivity of arboreal hunting spider species. From the economic standpoint, Ph. cespitum and Clubiona spp. were found to be the most effective natural enemies of apple pests, especially of aphids. Finally, the trophic niche width of C. xanthogramma and Ph. cespitum increased during ontogeny, resulting in a shift in their predation. These results demonstrate how specific generalist predators can differ from each other in aspects of their predation ecology even within a relatively narrow taxonomic group.
Project description:Natural habitats, comprised of various flowering plant species, provide food and nesting resources for pollinator species and other beneficial arthropods. Loss of such habitats in agricultural regions and in other human-modified landscapes could be a factor in recent bee declines. Artificially established floral plantings may offset these losses. A multi-year, season-long field study was conducted to examine how wildflower plantings near commercial apple orchards influenced bee communities. We examined bee abundance, species richness, diversity, and species assemblages in both the floral plantings and adjoining apple orchards. We also examined bee community subsets, such as known tree fruit pollinators, rare pollinator species, and bees collected during apple bloom. During this study, a total of 138 species of bees were collected, which included 100 species in the floral plantings and 116 species in the apple orchards. Abundance of rare bee species was not significantly different between apple orchards and the floral plantings. During apple bloom, the known tree fruit pollinators were more frequently captured in the orchards than the floral plantings. However, after apple bloom, the abundance of known tree fruit pollinating bees increased significantly in the floral plantings, indicating potential for floral plantings to provide additional food and nesting resources when apple flowers are not available.
Project description:Movement of insect pests between spatially subdivided populations can allow them to recolonize areas where local extinction has occurred, increasing pest persistence. Populations of woolly apple aphid (Eriosoma lanigerum [Hausmann]; Hemiptera: Aphididae), a worldwide pest of apple (Malus domestica [Borkhausen]), occur both below- and aboveground. These spatially subdivided subpopulations encounter different abiotic conditions, natural enemies, and control tactics. Restricting movement between them might be an effective management tactic to decrease woolly apple aphid persistence and abundance. We examined this possibility in the field, using sticky barriers to restrict upward woolly apple aphid movement to tree canopies, and in the greenhouse, using mulches and sand amendments to restrict downward movement to roots. In the field, blocking aphid movement up tree trunks did not decrease the number of colonies in tree canopies. Instead, sticky-banded apple trees had higher aphid colony counts late in the study. Earwigs, which are woolly apple aphid predators, were excluded from tree canopies by sticky bands. In the greenhouse, fewer root galls (indicative of aphid feeding) occurred on trees in sandy potting media and on those with mulch (wood chips or paper slurry). Our results suggest that upward movement is less important than other factors that affect aboveground aerial woolly apple aphid population dynamics. In addition, apple orchards planted in sandier soils or with mulches may be partially protected from woolly apple aphid root feeding.