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New research examines effects of wildflower strips on ground-dwelling natural enemies and crop yield

4 August 2021

A recent study, published in the online journal Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, examines the effects of wildflower strips on natural pest control and crop yield in winter wheat (Triticum aestivum) fields with contrasting management in the Netherlands. The paper called “Flower availability drives effects of wildflower strips on ground-dwelling natural enemies and crop yield”  is highly relevant to SHOWCASE in the context of promoting sustainable agricultural production by building a bridge of knowledge between incentives of agricultural producers and biodiversity management practices.

Authors of the paper, amongst whom SHOWCASE project coordinator Prof. David Kleijn, selected eight fields bordering a 3-5m wide wildflower strip on one side and eight fields without wildflower strips as control. Each field was subdivided into four plots that were subject to all combinations of fertilizer application (with, without) and insecticide application (with, without).

The results indicate that the presence of wildflower strips did not affect ground-dwelling natural enemies, aphids or crop yield. However, flower availability across wildflower strips and control margins was positively related to the abundance of the pooled number of examined natural enemies, spiders and carabid beetles. Positive effects in the crop were observed over limited distances; up to 5 m from the edge for spiders and wheat yield.

Moreover, cover and richness of wildflowers in field margin habitat, rather than establishment of wildflower strips per se, drove increases in natural enemies and crop yield. This suggests that more attention should be given to the optimization of establishment success of seed mixtures and management practices enhancing wildflower cover and diversity.

Furthermore, biodiversity enhancing management of the herbaceous vegetation in linear landscape elements may represent a cost-effective alternative to boost ecosystem services regulating crop production in agricultural landscapes.

Read full article here.



Figure: Geographical map of the study area, showing the locations of the 16 study sites. C represents control sites without wildflower strips; S represents sites sown with wildflower strips. Source: Mei Z, de Groot GA, Kleijn D, Dimmers W, van Gils S, Lammertsma D, van Kats R, Scheper J (2021). Flower availability drives effects of wildflower strips on ground-dwelling natural enemies and crop yield, Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment,318, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2021.107570.

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