The effects of increasing crop diversity on populations of wheat stem sawfly (Cephus cinctus) and associated braconid parasitoids
Fischer, Benjamin Vernon
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Wheat stem sawfly, Cephus cinctus (Norton) (WSS) is the most damaging pest of wheat in the Northern Great Plains. Insecticides are not widely used to control this insect, and cultural control methods provide inconsistent management of this pest. However, biological control by the parasitoids Bracon cephi (Gahan) and Bracon lissogaster Muesebeck has been shown to reduce damage caused by WSS. In addition, increased agroecosystem diversity has benefitted biological control agents in many other systems. Therefore, this study assessed the effect on populations of WSS and associated parasitoids by the inclusion of pulse and cover crops near wheat fields. Field trapping, dissection of postharvest crop residue, and rearing of insects out of crop residue were used to survey WSS and parasitoid populations in pairs of wheat fields throughout the major wheat producing regions of Montana. One wheat field in each pair was seeded next to a fallow field, and the other was seeded next to a field of either pulse or cover crop. Postharvest stem dissection samples show that wheat fields next to pulse or cover crops had a mean increase of 51 parasitoids per m 2 than wheat fields next to fallow. A corresponding 3% reduction in stem cutting was also observed in postharvest samples from wheat fields adjacent to flowering pulse or cover crops. Land-use data from CropScape TM were used as well to evaluate other land-use impacts around each wheat field such as wheat, fallow, grassland/pasture, flowering crops, and developed space. The regression equation Y = 18.96X + 6.08, where X = proportion of fallow land within 2 km of the wheat field and Y = square root of WSS abundance in a 7.5 m sample of crop residue from rows of wheat, can be used to predict WSS abundance in wheat fields. Replacing fallow fields with flowering pulse or cover crops in the Northern Great Plains may be an important integrated pest management tactic to reduce WSS damage. Cultural practices such as crop diversification are key to developing consistent biological control for WSS.