Multi-function agricultural biodiversity and agri-environmental schemes in Australian agricultural landscapes

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Multi-function agricultural biodiversity and agri-environmental schemes in Australian agricultural landscapes

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Abstract: This paper synthesises recent results from work on enhancing biological control ofpests in a range of Australian agricultural systems in which forms of agri-environmental schemesare used. A key aspect of using biodiversity-related effects for pest management is that landmanagers are concerned with multiple issues and tend to be unwilling to institute changes to landmanagement specifically to achieve sustainable pest suppression. It is therefore important thatthose involved in developing ecologically-based pest management strategies promote them aspart of a suite of benefits that justify the effort involved. For example, work in Australia hasdemonstrated that biological control can be enhanced by use of ‘shelterbelts’. These rows of treesare traditionally used to protect crops and livestock from extreme weather but have become morepopular to manage the hydrology of catchments and avoid soil salinity. Such forms of farmforestry – and agri-environmental schemes in general – are likely to become more lucrative aspayments are made for carbon sequestration. Biological control workers can ‘piggy back’ on theecosystem services provided by farm tree plantings by encouraging use of mixed tree species andthe presence of understorey shrubs and groundcover vegetation to enhance parasitoids andpredators. This paper also reports on the range of methods being used to elucidate how landscapecharacteristics can influence the dynamics of pest: natural enemy interactions and how these canbe used to better manage pests. These include (i) chemical ecology of induced plant defences todirect natural enemy movement between vegetation types (ii) rare earth and dye marking to trackarthropod movement and (ii) geo-spatial analysis to understand the importance of connectivity.Results are presented from a study in which non-crop vegetation harbours an insect-transmittedplant pathogen illustrating that vegetation biodiversity can have negative as well as positiveconsequences for plant protection.

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