Impact of agro-ecological infrastructures on the control of insect pests in apple orchards


Abstract: The rosy apple aphid, Dysaphis plantaginea, and the codling moth, Cydia pomonella, are major insect pests in apple orchards causing high economic losses. A conservation biological control approach using plant species that provide resources for natural enemies may improve natural regulation and reduce insecticide use. In this study, we compared the influence of wildflower strips, grass strips and spontaneous vegetation on the biological control of aphids and moths by their natural enemies (parasitoids, hoverflies, and ladybirds) in three untreated apple orchards in 2014 and 2015. The sown wildflower strip mixture was successful in increasing floral resource provisioning in both years. Among the major natural enemy groups observed in the margin strips only hoverflies responded positively to the increase of floral resources. Within the orchards, the number of aphid colonies per tree was higher close to the margins, but the number of codling moth larvae smaller. The number of natural enemies observed in aphid colonies was largely driven by aphid number. None of the natural enemy groups observed in D. plantaginae colonies responded to the adjacent strip treatments. This dynamic response may explain the reduction in aphid numbers close to wildflower strips without finding higher overall natural enemy numbers. Similarly, codling moth parasitism was higher close to the margins. These results suggest a positive influence of floral resource provisioning by wildflower strips on aphid predation and codling moth parasitism but they also demonstrate that effect size may be small if species-rich spontaneous vegetation does already occur in margins or inside orchards.

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