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Invertebrate biodiversity affects predator fitness and hence potential to control pests in crops

Harwood, James D., Phillips, Sarah W., Lello, Joanne ORCID:, Sunderland, Keith D., Glen, David M., Bruford, Michael William ORCID:, Harper, Georgina L. and Symondson, William Oliver Christian ORCID: 2009. Invertebrate biodiversity affects predator fitness and hence potential to control pests in crops. Biological Control 51 (3) , pp. 499-506. 10.1016/j.biocontrol.2009.09.007

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Natural enemies that control pests usually allow farmers to avoid, or reduce, the use of pesticides. However, modern farming practices, that maximize yields, are resulting in loss of biodiversity, particularly prey diversity. Does this matter? Pests continue to thrive, and without alternative prey the predators should, perforce, concentrate their attentions upon the pests. We showed that a diverse diet significantly enhances predator fecundity and survival. Experiments were conducted using common generalist predators found in arable fields in Europe, the carabid beetle Pterostichus melanarius (Coleoptera: Carabidae) and the linyphiid spider Erigone atra (Araneae: Linyphiidae). We tested the hypothesis that mixed species diets were optimal, compared with restricted diets, with respect to parameters such as predator weights, egg weights, numbers of eggs laid, egg development times, egg hatching rates and predator survival. In carabids, an exclusive earthworm diet was as good as mixed diets containing earthworms for egg production and hatching, but less good than such mixed diets for increase in beetle mass and sustained egg laying. For spiders, aphids alone (Sitobion avenae) or with the Collembola Folsomia candida, drastically reduced survival. Aphids plus the Collembola Isotoma anglicana improved survival but only aphids with a mixed Collembola diet maximized numbers of hatching eggs. Predators offered only pests (slugs or aphids) had lowest growth rates and fecundity. We therefore demonstrated that conservation of a diversity of prey species within farmland, allowing predators to exploit a diverse diet, is essential if predators are to continue to thrive in crops and regulate agricultural pests.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Sustainable Places Research Institute (PLACES)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Biodiversity; Carabid beetles; Diverse diet; Generalist predators; Linyphiid spiders
Publisher: Academic Press
ISSN: 1049-9644
Last Modified: 17 Oct 2022 10:41

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