Can rare arable plants benefit biological pest control potential of cereal aphids in croplands?

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  • Alina Twerski
  • Harald Albrecht
  • Róbert Gallé
  • Fabian Sauter
  • Péter Császár
  • Christina Fischer

In agricultural landscapes, arable plants are negatively affected by management intensification. These species can fulfill various ecosystem functions, such as biological pest control, by supporting predators. The ecosystem functions of common plant species are widely known. By contrast, the contribution of rare arable plants (RAPs) to biocontrol in cereal fields remains poorly understood. This study investigated the effect of RAPs on biocontrol potential. We compared cropped plots with and without sowing of rare and threatened arable plant species and investigated the effects on cereal aphids and their antagonistic predators, active hunting, and web-building spiders, as well as carnivorous/omnivorous carabids. We counted the total number of aphids on cereal shoots and trapped ground-dwelling arthropods on an experimental field and on 10 agricultural farms in the vicinity of Munich, Germany, in 2018 and 2019. The effects of the presence of RAPs were analyzed using linear mixed-effect models, whereas cover of RAPs was analyzed using structural equation models. Linear models revealed that the presence of RAPs did not significantly affect the aphid density and the activity densities of spiders and carabids. Structural equation models revealed direct negative effects of RAP cover on aphid density. However, no indirect effects via the predators of aphids were detected. Direct negative effects of active hunting spiders on aphids were determined, but not of the other potential predators. Our results suggest that RAPs may impact aphid infestation, however, the activity density of spiders and carabids were unsuitable indicators for such interactions.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBasic and Applied Ecology
Pages (from-to)40-49
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 01.02.2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by The German Federal Environmental Foundation (DBU) [grant number AZ 34.029/01].

Funding Information:
We thank the Seidlhof Foundation and the farmers for providing fields to perform the experiments. Thanks to Johannes Kollmann for commenting on the manuscript. We also thank the TUM Graduate School for proofreading and Stephan Haug, Thomas Wagner, and Jochen Fründ for statistical consulting. Sampling of living animals was permitted by the government of Upper Bavaria (reference: ROB-55.1–8646.NAT_02–8–3–3).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors

    Research areas

  • Agricultural landscape, Agroecology, Arable land, Biocontrol potential, Carabid, Phytodiversity, Spider, Trophic interaction, Weed
  • Biology