Organic versus conventional management in an apple orchard: effects of fertilization and tree-row management on ground-dwelling predaceous arthropods

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1 Organic and conventional management of apple orchards may have a different effect on arthropod communities.

2 We conducted a 3-year study to assess the effect of two strategies of fertilizer treatment (organic versus chemical) and three tree-row management systems (straw mulching, tillage and herbicide) on activity-density and biodiversity of epigeic predators. Ground beetles (Carabidae), rove beetles (Staphylinidae), ants (Formicidae) and spiders (Araneae) were sampled monthly with pitfall traps in the same apple orchard during 2003, 2004 and 2005.

3 A total of 4978 individuals were collected. Carabids (56.8% of the total catches) were the most abundant taxonomic group, followed by spiders (20.7%), ants (14.8%) and rove beetles (7.7%). Tree-row management had a greater influence on predator catches than fertilizer treatment. Total predator catches were lower under the mulch. Mulching also reduced carabid abundance, but increased staphylinid catches.

4 Tree row management also had a significant effect on biodiversity parameters. Species richness did not significantly differ among treatments for ants, spiders or the total catches, but was higher on herbicide-treated plots for carabids and on mulched plots for staphylinids. Shannon–Wiener’s diversity index was significantly greater in the mulched and herbicide treated plots for total predators and carabids. For staphylinids, this index was significantly greater on the mulched plots. Fertilizer application strategy only influenced the species richness of rove beetles, which was greater in the chemically-treated plots.

5 The results showed that a change from conventional to organic fertilizer treatment of apple trees may be performed without differential effects on predator activity-density or biodiversity. However, a change from herbicide treatment to mulching or mechanical weed control may be significant, depending on the taxonomic group.

Keywords: Araneae; Carabidae; Formicidae; Staphylinidae; biodiversity; conservation

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: CREAF-Unitat d’Ecología, Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona, E-08193, Bellaterra, Spain 2: Departamento Biología de Organismos y Sistemas, Universidá d’Uviéu, E-33071, Uviéu, Asturies, Spain 3: Departamento Biodiversidad y Gestión Ambiental, Universidad de León, E.S.T.I.A, Campus de Ponferrada, Avda, Astorga, s/n, E-24400, León, Spain

Publication date: May 1, 2009

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