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Attract and reward: combining chemical ecology and habitat manipulation to enhance biological control in field crops

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1. An increase in pesticide resistance in many pest species is promoting interest in biological control. Much remains to be learned about natural enemy immigration into and persistence within crops at specific times and how to maximize suppression of pest populations. Therefore this study was conducted to test a novel biological control approach, ‘attract and reward’ which combines two aspects of applied insect ecology: synthetic herbivore-induced plant volatiles (HIPVs) to improve immigration of beneficial taxa into crops and nectar plants to maintain their populations.

2. The ‘attract and reward’ approach was tested in sweetcorn, broccoli and wine-grapes with several HIPV formulations at 1ยท0% (v/v) as attractants and buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum Moench) as reward. Abundance of insects was assessed with non-attractive sticky traps for up to 22 days after the HIPV spray application.

3. In sweetcorn, Eulophidae were more numerous in the attract treatments: methyl anthranilate, methyl jasmonate (MeJA), methyl salicylate (MeSA) and HIPV mix. Encyrtidae were more abundant near MeJA-treated plants. In broccoli, Scelionidae were more abundant in MeSA treatments with reward and near cis-3-hexenyl acetate-treated plants without reward whilst Ceraphronidae were more numerous near MeSA and predators were more abundant near HIPV mix-treated plants. Nectar plant reward increased catches of parasitoids from several families in all three tested crop species and increased predators in sweet corn and broccoli.

4. Increases in natural enemy numbers were correlated with effects at the first and second trophic levels. Significantly fewer larvae of the sweetcorn pest Helicoverpa spp. were found on sweetcorn plants from plots with reward and significantly less Helicoverpa spp. damage was evident to cobs for one of the HIPV treatments.

5.Synthesis and applications. Results suggest that applications of synthetic HIPVs can enhance recruitment of natural enemies and buckwheat was a suitable resource subsidy plant for increasing abundance and residency. Whilst both of these approaches offer potential to enhance biological control, further work is required to realize fully synergistic effects from their combination as an ‘attract and reward’ approach.
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Keywords: Fagopyrum esculentum; HIPVs; conservation biological control; induced plant defence; parasitoids; volatiles

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: EH Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, School of Agricultural & Wine Sciences, Faculty of Science, (Industry & Investment NSW and Charles Sturt University) Charles Sturt University, Leeds Parade, Orange, NSW 2800, Australia 2: National Centre for Advanced Bio-Protection Technologies, Lincoln University, PO Box 84, Lincoln 7647, New Zealand 3: Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Centre, Washington State University, 24106 N. Bunn Road, Prosser, WA 99350, USA 4: Organic Crop Protectants, 42 Halloran St, Lilyfield, NSW 2040, Australia

Publication date: June 1, 2011

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