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Land use alters the abundance of herbivore and predatory insects on crops: the case of alfalfa
Journal of Pest Science  (IF5.918),  Pub Date : 2021-06-11, DOI: 10.1007/s10340-021-01395-y
Filipe Madeira, Gemma Clemente-Orta, Oscar Alomar, Ivan Batuecas, Samuel Sossai, Ramon Albajes

We assess the effects of changing land use and crop management on alfalfa insect abundance by comparing it in 50 alfalfa fields when they were inserted in landscapes with different proportions of arable crops and orchards. Land use in a buffer of 500 m was assessed, and alfalfa insect abundance was estimated with sticky yellow traps. The number of catches of several herbivores and predators was related to the proportion of landscape components and several field variables. Results indicated that the proportion of orchards in the buffer negatively affected the abundance of predators on alfalfa, likely because orchards treated with pesticides are a sink for predators moving in the landscape, among other possible causes. Other landscape variables such as noncrop habitats, winter cereals, and landscape diversity analysed by the Shannon index had a minor influence. Among field variables, field size influenced positively the abundance of insects on alfalfa, whereas alfalfa growth stage and age affected positively or negatively the different herbivores and predators. Of course, abundance of predators and prey was affected by the abundance of prey and predators, respectively. These findings suggest that a high proportion of intensively managed crops (orchards) in the landscape interferes with the role of alfalfa as a reservoir of predatory insects for adjacent crops and that the responses to local and landscape structures are temporal and species-specific as previously concluded for maize. Consequently, landscape and field management strategies to improve pest control must consider both types of variables as well as their changing influence when we modify them.