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The effects of organic and conventional fertilizers on cereal aphids and their natural enemies

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Abstract:

• Aphids are important pests of spring cereals and their abundance and the impact of their natural enemies may be influenced by fertilizer regime.

• We conducted a 2-year field study investigating the effects of organic slow-release and conventional fertilizers on cereal aphids, hymenopteran parasitoids and syrphid predators and considered how the effects of fertilizers on barley morphology and colour might influence these species.

• Barley yield was greater in conventionally fertilized pots. Barley morphology was also affected by treatment: vegetative growth was greater under conventional treatments. Barley receiving organic fertilizers or no fertilizer was visually more attractive to aphids compared with plants receiving conventional fertilizers.

• Aphids were more abundant in conventionally fertilized barley but the reason for this increased abundance was species specific. Metopolophium dirhodum was responding to fertilizer effects on plant morphology, whereas Rhopalosiphum padi was sensitive to the temporal availability of nutrients.

• Syrphid eggs were more numerous in conventionally fertilized pots, whereas the response of parasitoids appeared to be dependent on the abundance of aphids, although the number of parasitoid mummies was low in both years.

• This research shows that the fertilizer treatment used can affect numerous characteristics of plant growth and colour, which can then influence higher trophic levels. This knowledge might be used to make more informed fertilizer application choices.

Keywords: Agro-ecology; Metopolophium dirhodum; Rhopalosiphum padi; Sitobion avenae; Syrphidae; barley; parasitoids

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1461-9563.2010.00480.x

Publication date: August 1, 2010

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