Bulletin of Entomological Research

Research Paper

The effect of within-crop habitat manipulations on the conservation biological control of aphids in field-grown lettuce

D.J. Skirvina1 p1 c1, L. Kravar-Gardea1, K. Reynoldsa1, C. Wrighta1 and A. Meada1

a1 University of Warwick, Warwick HRI, Wellesbourne, Warwick, CV35 9EF, UK

Abstract

Within-crop habitat manipulations have the potential to increase the biological control of pests in horticultural field crops. Wildflower strips have been shown to increase the abundance of natural enemies, but there is little evidence to date of an impact on pest populations. The aim of this study was to determine whether within-crop wildflower strips can increase the natural regulation of pests in horticultural field crops. Aphid numbers in plots of lettuce grown adjacent to wildflower strips were compared with those in plots grown in the absence of wildflowers. The presence of wildflower strips led to a decrease in aphid numbers on adjacent lettuce plants during June and July, but had less impact in August and September. The decrease in aphid numbers was greatest close to the wildflower strips and, the decrease in aphid numbers declined with increasing distance from the wildflower strips, with little effect at a distance of ten metres. The main natural enemies found in the crop were those that dispersed aerially, which is consistent with data from previous studies on cereal crops. Analysis and interpretation of natural enemy numbers was difficult due to low recovery of natural enemies, and the numbers appeared to follow changes in aphid abundance rather than being directly linked to the presence of wildflower strips. Cutting the wildflower strips, to remove floral resources, had no impact on the reduction in aphid numbers achieved during June and July, but decreased the effect of the wildflower strips during August and September. The results suggest that wildflower strips can lead to increased natural regulation of pest aphids in outdoor lettuce crops, but more research is required to determine how this is mediated by natural enemies and how the impact of wildflower strips on natural pest regulation changes during the growing season.

(Accepted September 29 2010)

(Online publication January 20 2011)

Keywords

  • wildflower strip;
  • mulch;
  • aphid;
  • lettuce;
  • biological control;
  • habitat manipulation