Banking on Beetles in Oregon

Final Report for FW06-324

Project Type: Professional + Producer
Funds awarded in 2006: $19,068.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:
Gwendolyn Ellen
Agricultural Biodiversity Consulting
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Project Information

Abstract:

Thirty-eight percent of the nation’s organic growers identified habitat for beneficials as one of their major pest management strategies (Waltz 1999) yet relevant information on implementation, establishment, and conservation of such habitat on a regional level is virtually non-existent. In this project we used novel principles of the Community Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and participatory approaches to learning developed by the FAO UN (Dilts 2001, Bartlett 2004) and methods from the “club model” successfully applied by the Alternative Energy Resource Organization (AERO) in Montana to help Oregon farmers develop new conservation biological control strategies on their farm in the form of experimental beetle banks. We surveyed farm predacious beetle populations, began to evaluate the banks and other farm habitat as effective refuge for beetles and enhanced the adoption and adaption of beetle bank technology among PNW farmers. The beetle banks have been a focus for developing successful establishment and weed management practices within farming systems as well as innovative outreach tools for a larger audience of farmers wishing to create more on-farm habitat for beneficial organisms.

Introduction

Beneficial insect habitat was included in the five most commonly reported insect pest management practices used by organic farmers in an Organic Farming Research Foundation 1995 survey (Waltz 1999). Sooby et al. (2007) report that farmers prefer to minimize pest outbreak damage by managing ecological elements of their farming systems. They document that developing optimal plant species mixes and planting strategies for hedgerows and non-disturbed buffers that provide habitat for beneficial organisms and habitat manipulations to maximize their effects are top pest management research needs for organic farmers. A current review of the literature suggests that the use of such techniques reduced crop pest abundance significantly in 49 out of 67 cases (73%) and reduced crop damage or increased yield significantly in 22 out of 31 cases (71%) (Symondson et al. 2002).

Effective implementation of beneficial on-farm habitat has been done in many types of cropping systems through mechanisms of conserving/enhancing floral alternate host or shelter resources or through avoidance of disturbance by pesticides (Landis et al. 2000). However, it is important to tune the manipulations to the life history of specific beneficial organisms (Jarvis et al. 2004) as well as to the specific crop management system (Gurr et al.1998). To do this farmers need more relevant, regional information to develop on-farm beneficial habitat (Brodt et al. 2008, Organic Potato PMSP for Idaho, OR, and WA 2007 and others).

This project stems from a collaboration of organic vegetable growers and researchers working together since 2003 in a program called Farmscaping for Beneficials (FSB) at OSU’s Integrated Plant Protection Center (IPPC). Farmers interested in providing habitat to conserve and/or enhance populations and effectiveness of beneficial organisms or conservation biological control (CBC) (Barbosa 1998) began visiting local organic vegetable farms to learn what CBC practices neighboring farmers were implementing and how they might adopt and adapt them on their farms.

During these FSB farm walks farmers identified characteristics they wanted in new CBC methods and information they needed to implement them. Most farmers already employed flowering cover crops, allowing crops to bloom, and releasing beneficial insects, but only a few had tried creating permanent habitat such as insectary hedgerows, or beetle banks. Several farmers voiced their interest in creating beetle banks on their farms. These farmers wanted information on appropriate plant species for the banks, establishment and maintenance techniques, and some scientific evidence that increasing predacious ground beetle habitat would benefit their farm.

Beetle Banks are undisturbed, grassy mounds that provide essential over-wintering habitat for predatory beetles and spiders. Research in the United Kingdom has demonstrated that generalist predators, particularly ground beetles, seek out and benefit from the microclimate afforded by beetle banks (Dennis et al. 1994). These generalist predators feed on arthropod pests in agricultural systems and contribute to lower pest abundance (Brewer and Elliot 2003, Edwards et al. 1979, Kromp 1999, Sunderland and Vickerman 1980). Critical to the success of beetle banks is the quick establishment of tussock-forming grasses in a uniform sward or bank that inhibits invasion by weeds or species with undesirable habitat characteristics. In addition beetle banks need to be situated in the farm landscape in such a way that they augment generalist predators in places and at times that are relevant to suppressing crop pests. Current recommendations for the design and construction of beetle banks come almost entirely from research conducted in Europe and New Zealand.

In 2005, four participating Oregon organic farmers and FSB researchers were awarded this SARE grant to look at on-farm populations of predacious ground beetles and to begin developing on-farm technologies for beetle banks. Project farmers and researchers have collaboratively developed science-based, farming-system tested, practices for beetle bank design and establishment that will work throughout the western United States. We have also identified specific plant species and plant associations that provide effective beetle habitat and that minimize weed establishment.

Under this project, four on-farm banks were constructed utilizing successful (and sometimes not so successful) weed management techniques including flaming and mulching, site preparation practices of cover cropping and rotary tilling, bank raising techniques employing the use of plows, harrowers, discs, shovels and compost. We tested appropriate native grass species which were transplanted and hand-broadcasted. Preliminary data on predacious ground beetles populations and associated habitat including beetle banks, have been recorded from 2 farms for the past two years. This data serves as a valuable baseline for future long-term studies of the biodiversity of these on-farm habitats and the beneficial organisms associated with them.

This project has utilized the club model and participatory approaches that employ farm walks, extensions of farm walks called field classes, and direct farmer to farmer meetings that capitalize on farmer participation, expertise, leadership and result in community building. Under this structure farmers designed their own beetle bank experiments and implemented them, exchanged information on what worked and what didn’t work with other participating farmers and neighboring farmers and at regional meetings. Research shows that farmers learn best from farmers, are more willing to adapt practices learned from neighboring farmers, and that they prefer this type of learning method (Brodt et al. 2008, DePhelps 2007 and Waltz 1999). Researchers contend that factors such as attending field days and personal contact with extension researchers are significant variables determining adoption of conservation practices (Nowak 1987, Rogers 1995). In 2007 studies in Denmark found that economic factors alone are not always enough to explain diffusion of innovations across agricultural landscapes. They found the socio-cultural processes that stem from local, pioneering farmer-leaders and “ambassadors” or those who facilitate the local leaders’ work, play critical roles in adoption of new practices (Brodt et al. 2008). This research provides strong arguments for the types of outreach utilized in this project which included in the first year, 2 on-farm field classes for farmers, including one in which a beetle bank was constructed, 3 farmer field tours, and one farmer winter meeting that included dinner and one farmer slide and poster presentation at a local watershed district winter meeting. The second year we conducted one farm walk, presented 2 farmer habitat presentations (one on-farm in OR which included a dinner and beetle bank tour, and one in WA), developed 3 project posters and a project website. The website had an estimated 8,959 visits in 2007. Information on the project has been published in professional, regional, and local publications and featured on local television stations.

Project Objectives:

1. To help farmers Oregon farmers develop experimental beetle banks of their own design on their farms. This involves developing techniques for beetle bank construction, establishment and maintenance.

2. Make preliminary assessments of the value of on-farm beetle banks as pest management tools in vegetable farming systems.

3. Use the banks as a focus for observation, evaluation, learning and outreach among farmers using various participatory, Community IPM approaches.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Mary Alionis
  • Vince Alionis
  • Mario Ambrosino
  • Sally Brewer
  • John Eveland
  • Jeff Falen
  • Paul Jepson
  • Laura Masterson
  • Elanor O'Brian

Research

Materials and methods:

Two-four on-site visits with each farm were made (except on Whistling Duck Farm) to coordinate raising banks, weeding banks, 3 beetle bank events, beetle field trapping, poster designs, 2 presentations and the next steps in our project in 2006. To accomplish this amount of coordination in addition to the farm visits we used the telephone, email, piggy-backing on other meetings and a written questionnaire (see Appendix I).

In 2007, we held 2 field events, 2 farmer presentations and numerous farm visits to assess and experiment with bank management options, creating more banks, hosting walks, preparing and presenting posters, and giving presentations to other farmers. Ellen visited 2 participating farms, Gathering Together Farm (GTF), and Persephone Farm 3 times a month from June-October to trap beetles. The 47th Ave Farm was visited twice. Consultations, too numerous to count, were had with all the farmers throughout the season to discuss beetle trapping, management options, grass seed selections, and overall project direction.

1. Farmers Developing Beetle Bank Technology: Bank Raising Practices
With the aid of FSB researchers and funding from OSU’s IPPC 2 of the four participating farmers created beetle banks in 2004/5 before this project officially started. One, at Whistling Duck Farm (WDF) in southern Oregon was done as a field class with 9 neighboring farmers. A hand-broadcast seeded, wood-chip mulched, 4’ X 200’ beetle bank was created. It tested two native bunch grasses, blue wild rye (Elymus glaucus) and slender wild rye (Elymus trachycaulus) and was adjacent to cropped fields and an irrigation ditch. The bank was raised by plowing and reverse plowing. The bank was split into three sections. Two sections were individually seeded with the blue wild rye and the slender wild rye. The third section was seeded to a mix of the two grasses. The bank was irrigated until rains started. Due to poor germination of the blue wild rye (at about 1-3%) and heavy weed pressure this bank failed and was turned under. This bank was included in this report as early work of our participating farmers at WDF. They had planned to conduct another field class and create a second beetle bank in 2006/7 but due to extenuating circumstances they were not able to participate further in the project.

Two beetle banks were established in 2004 at Persephone Farm in Lebanon, Oregon. These are Oregon’s oldest known beetle banks and were used for field data in this project. The banks were plowed and reverse plowed to raise them approximately 12 inches high. The 500 feet long banks were then hand-raked and flamed with a back-pack flamer 2-3 weeks after plowing to kill emerging weeds. Water foxtail (Alopecurus geniculatus), blue wild rye and slender wild rye were hand-broadcasted each in its own section of the bank at about 7-11 pounds per acre. Portions of the banks were hand-weeded in the spring and irrigated in summer 2005. One of these banks was tilled in fall 2008 and the other, still stands.
Four beetle banks were constructed on participating farms during the tenure of this project. Of the three project banks constructed in 2006, the first, created May 9th, is a 4’X 560’, mechanically (and manually) transplanted bank on Gathering Together Farm in Philomath, Oregon. It was planted with blue wild rye, slender wild rye, and water foxtail. Leaf compost was spread on the site and rotovated in. It was raised by using two discs mounted on the ends of the implement. The soil was pushed up about 11-14 inches. A bar was run across the top to level it out. The transplanter has three rotors/wheels that mark where to plant the row, plus make additional lines on their edges that were used to produce the fourth row. The four rows are 6 to10 inches apart with a space of about 12 inches in the middle. The plants are approximately 6 inches apart within the row. Three men lay on their stomachs on boards behind the tractor to transplant approximately 7000 plugs. It took 2 hours to plant. The bank was irrigated through its first season only. Still standing today, two sections of this bank are well established with few weeds. The section of meadow foxtail on the bank is starting to die out.

The 47th Ave. Farm in Portland constructed a beetle bank in September 2006. A 4’ by 100’ swathe was cut and tilled through a standing summer cover of Sudangrass. It was hand-raised about 12-13 inches. The bank was divided into three sections. The first section was broadcast seeded with blue wild rye, the second with water foxtail and the third section was with a mixture of the two. A light mulch of wheat straw was applied. The bank was not irrigated. The bunchgrasses germinated but not sufficiently enough to thrive under spring’s thick carpet of chickweed (Stellaria media). The bank was mowed in 2007 and left intact until spring 2008 when it was tilled up and re-raised by hand. It was then covered with black plastic throughout the summer of 2008. It will be flamed and broadcast seeded again fall 2008 with blue wild rye and California oatgrass (Danthonia californicus).

Persephone Farm has constructed two banks in addition to the ones raised in 2004 using the same techniques. In fall 2006 a 4’ X 500’ bank was raised with a plow and hand-broadcast seeded with blue wild rye and water foxtail. The seeds were lightly covered with soil by pulling a chain across the bed. This ill-fated bank was mistakenly included in the free-range chicken pen in the spring and consequently much of the grass was eaten and the bank was tilled in. In 2007 a fourth bank was constructed in a different field, hand-broadcast seeded with blue wild rye, slender wild rye and California fescue (Festuca californicus) in three separate sections. The bank was not irrigated. Germination on the entire bank was poor. The bank was left intact for re-seeding in fall 2008.

Participating farmers agreed that the best way to raise a bank was with implements at hand. Plowing raised the highest banks but not everyone had a plow. GTF added leaf compost to their bank. Two years later it is at least 2-3 inches lower as the compost has decomposed. Due to their clay soils Persephone Farm has problems breaking up the clay chunks after plowing and this may have contributed to the poor germination on their last bank.

2. Site Preparation for the Banks
WDF’s bank was placed in the crop field margin next to an irrigation ditch with no prior cover cropping or weed management before the bank was raised. This strip had not been previously cropped, nor irrigated. The bank site was tilled a few days before the bank was raised. The farmer reasoned the weed seed bank would be lower than in a previously cropped field site. This may have been true but unfortunately the blue wild rye germination was poor due to old seed and spring weed germination was high. The farmer decided to till in the bank and try again later.

All the bank sites at Persephone Farm were previously cropped fields before the banks were raised. The land was not tilled previously to plowing to raise the banks. Most of the banks were flamed once several weeks after they were raised. The new bank was raised a season before it will be seeded, was flamed once, mowed once, not irrigated and may be flamed at least once more before reseeding in 2008.

The Gathering Together Farm bank was a previously cropped field prior to raising. The site was rotovated several days before raising and planting. The site had not been cover cropped the season before the bank was raised. The grass plugs were transplanted immediately after the bank was raised.

The 47th Ave Bank was the only bank site in the project that had been in cover crop before it was tilled, hand-raised and planted. A swathe for the bank was tilled through a dense, knee-high stand of Sudangrass just a week before the bank was raised and planted. No weed management was done before the seeds were hand-broadcasted. Even through a light mulch of straw the spring broadleaf weed cover was enough to out compete the native grasses.

The four participating farmers agree that the more weed management that can be done during site preparation the better the bank establishment chances are. Tilling the ground a month or so before plowing it would allow more flaming of weeds to occur before the bank is raised and planted. All agree multiple flamings are better than one and Ellen’s research banks support this approach. These banks were flamed multiple times before seeding and transplanting. Though not created on 20 year organic soils the non-irrigated banks have had very little weed competition after the first year. 47th Ave Farm suggests cover cropping a season before raising the bank, raising the bank and then flaming it and covering it with black plastic through the summer. Before seeding the following fall there would be more opportunities to flame the bank. Another approach suggested would be to create the bank where you had cropped under plastic the previous summer, raise it and flame multiple times before seeding or transplanting.

3. Bank Maintenance Practices
The transplanted GTF bank was irrigated until the transplants were rooted. The bank was hand-weeded four times. About 3-5 weeks after the grasses had been planted they were flamed with a tractor-pulled, five-burner, propane flamer. This was the first time anyone flamed grass plants on the bank. The Elymus spp. responded more favorably to the flaming than the water foxtail which did not cover the bank in its first season as effectively as it had on other farm banks. This could also be due to a lack of irrigation after the first summer. The bank was mowed in 2007 and 2008. Now in its second year broadleaf weeds are few on this bank. The water foxtail section has the most weeds.

The Persephone Farm banks are the only banks on the cooperating farms to be flamed before planting. For the banks established in 2004 this was moderately successful. One bank was hand-weeded in certain sections the following spring. The hand-weeded sections of the first bank flourished for the first three seasons. A section of the hand-weeded bank that was thought lost to weeds was never weeded. To the surprise of us all, in the third year this non-weeded section of slender wild rye came back as an almost weed-free stand. The second bank which was not hand-weeded at all had many non-planted species invade the bank but none the farmers found threatening so they kept that bank. In the third and following seasons both banks were mowed once a summer. This has helped keep most of the broadleaf weeds at bay however, quackgrass (Elytrigia repens) a rhizomatous, perennial grass was the demise of the hand-weeded bank which was tilled in fall 2008 after its fourth year. The Persephone banks were irrigated periodically.

Originally, it was felt that the slower growing native bunch grasses would need to set seed for a year or more before mowing however we soon learned that the seeding of the broadleaf weeds in this scenario was much more harmful. It was concluded that mowing from the first season on was the best policy. This is practiced in Washington and the UK with great success on orchard grass (Dactylis glomerata) banks. The persistence of quackgrass in the Persephone bank was fatal. More flaming could have perhaps helped set-back this noxious weed. Irrigation was the biggest factor for the spring transplanted bank at GTF. Watering this bank until the transplants were established was vital after that watering did seem to be an issue. This was true for all the other banks except in the meadow foxtail sections over time.

4. Grass Species Evaluation and Establishment
Quarterly bank photographs and establishment notes were taken from the GTF and Persephone banks to evaluate the different species of grasses used on the banks for the two years of this project. Species planted include blue wild rye, slender wild rye, and water foxtail on the participating farm banks and the previous species plus Roemers fescue (Festuca Romeri), California oatgrass (Danthonia californicus), orchard grass, prairie Junegrass (Koeleria macrantha), meadow barley (Hordeum brachyantherum), and California fescue (Festuca californica) on the variety trials done at OSU’s Hyslop Research Farm in Corvallis. Different grass species were planted in separate blocks on most banks to simplify visual evaluations. Good establishment on the farm banks was considered any grass that won the competition with yearly broadleaf and grass weeds. The ability to compete with weeds changed year by year with each species. For the variety trials done in parallel with the farmers’ studies weed counts and percent cover was taken in 3 replicated plots for the first year.

For the most part participating growers were happy with the performance of the Elymus species and were not very familiar with the other species tested in the research banks. The data from the research bank variety trials has not yet been fully compiled or published. Other varieties tested on the research bank, with the exception of orchard grass are slower to develop. Researchers suggest planting them with a nurse crop of a dominant grass like Elymus. The farmers and researchers from this project are just beginning to research this technique. Performance of the water foxtail on the banks varied over time. It established well in the first two years but seemed to play out by the third year on the older banks. This could have been due to lack of irrigation, flaming that weakened the plants at GTF, or just poorer weed competition as the grass gets older.

4. Assessment of Predator Communities: pitfall trapping and soil samples

Pitfall traps were set in transects, radiating from beetle banks, and left open for 2-3 day sampling periods twice in June, and once in September and October of 2006. Transects were set up in four replicate rows, with traps at 1m, and 12 m apart at both GTF and Persephone Farm. In 2007 traps were set out from June to October in three replicates about 12 m apart and sites were chosen from field edges, forest habitat, and near and far from the banks at both farms. Soils samples to determine predacious ground beetle occurrence on the banks were taken off the banks in three replications at Persephone Farm in winter 2006 and off both GTF and Persephone banks in February and October 2007. With the first 2006 soil samples animals were hand extracted by arduously picking through them with knitting needles. By 2007, Berlese Funnels were used to extract the animals from the soil samples. Unfortunately, the 2006 soil sample data was lost in a stolen backpack in spring 2008. Some of the two year pitfall samples and 2007 soil sample data are still being identified.

5. Pest Abundance near Banks.
In the project’s two years there was very little pest infestation adjacent to banks on farms to catalog. No major pest damage occurred at GTF in the beetle bank field this entire time. In 2006, at Persephone Farm, a field of onions about 60m from a bank had early die off due to a virus vectored by a thrip infestation and about a third of the crop was lost.

6. Methods Table
The following methods table graphically describes the methods used, grasses sown, animals observed and notes on each bank.

Research results and discussion:

More Banks
This project has inspired a total of 17 known experimental beetle banks to be raised to date, in addition to the four that farmers put in under the project. Eleven of the banks, as are at OSU research stations, two are in eastern Washington. Another bank was raised on Mt Jefferson Farms in Salem by a participant of the 47th Ave Farm 2006 beetle bank field class, one was erected by students in the OSU Organic Gardening Club, another at the urban garden, Adriane in Portland and one at the Marion County Extension Center in Salem. Students at Evergreen State College in Olympia Washington are planning to raise their first beetle bank on campus Spring 2008 along with Brownsville, Oregon’s community garden. A graduate student of New College of Florida and a graduate student at the Universidade Estadual Paulista in Sao Paulo, Brazil (both learned of this project through www.beetlebank.or) have plans that include beetle bank research. Still eager to work with beetle bank technology, all four of the participating farmers have intentions to create more on-farm beetle banks in the future.

FSB’s research banks provide similar data as the farmers’ banks including variety and methods trials that can be statistically analyzed. Eight grass varieties are being tested. These banks also serve as demonstration banks for Oregon farmers, industry representatives and researchers. To date over 200 visitors have toured the banks at the 2007 and 2008 Hyslop Research Station field days. An excellent project article in the local agricultural paper (see Appendix II) and two other articles on cooperators, NRCS Plant Materials Center and Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation (Xerces), were sparked from these field days. They were also useful in developing contacts with local grass seed growers who are interested in developing beetle banks on their farms. In 2007, Ellen consulted with a field consultant who has several grass seed growers interested in creating beetle banks. She met twice with a grower at American Grass Seed Company to help develop plans for a grass seed farm 2008/9 beetle bank.

Also inspired by the project an OSU horticultural graduate student is doing his masters thesis on on-farm habitat for beneficials including beetle banks that include native grasses and forbs. He raised eight experimental beetle banks adjacent to the three at Hyslop in fall 2006. These banks are helping us understand the consequences of combining native grasses and forbs on banks. This concept, which has not seen much favor in prior research, is an interest of local farmers. They feel combining habitats on their farms could save labor and the amount of land they dedicate to habitat for beneficial insects. Percent grass and weed cover over time, soil temperature, and maintenance on these banks are being measured in addition to testing establishment practices, beetle trapping and replicated soil samples. This graduate student and his major professor, a landscape ecologist, currently collaborate on 3 FSB grants. Two of these grants include work with this project’s beetle banks.

Grants
As a direct spin off from this grant four grant proposals have been submitted. The first was submitted to USDA, CSREES, Regional Integrated Pest Management Program in 2007. It was to fund 2 years continuing research into beetle banks’ impact on on-farm predacious ground beetle populations with three of the participating BOB farmers. This was our first regional beetle bank proposal. We proposed to cooperate with Dr. Terry Miller of Washington State University and Washington farmer, Brad Bailie, who have worked together to create on-farm habitat including beetle banks in center pivot, organic potato fields. This proposal was not selected for funding. A one year, Oregon only, subset of this proposal was funded by USDA CSREES under the Oregon Organic Cropping Research Funds in 2008. This year in collaboration with the previously mentioned partners (including those in Washington) and three of the original BOB farmer cooperators a grant for fourth-fifth year field data on beetle banks in organic farming systems will be submitted to Western SARE for a two year research and education grant. We have met with the original farmer cooperators to design this proposal. This grant would extend our study of beetle banks and adjacent habitats and associated predacious ground beetle populations in PNW farming systems to five years. It would also enable us to refine habitat creation technologies within these farming systems and began testing theories of beetle bank colonization. The fourth proposal was submitted to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation in 2006 to create demonstration beetle banks and insectary hedgerows and conduct surveys of native pollinators and beneficial insects associated with them. The demonstrations were be at the NRCS Plant Materials Center (PMC) in Corvallis, Oregon. Xerces also collaborated on this proposal. Though this proposal was not funded we are creating these demonstration habitats with NRCS, IPPC and Xerces donations (see Appendix III).

Collaborations
This project has facilitated long lasting collaborations with the USDA NRCS Plant Material Center (PMC) and Xerces. The PMC has been instrumental in providing technical information on growing native prairie grasses and forbs as well as providing seeds and farming implements for project banks. With PMC director Joe Williams, NRCS and Xerces staff we have created a demonstration hedgerow in spring 2008. Plans for more demonstration habitat including beetle banks are in the works (see Appendix III). We have submitted two collaborative grant proposals with the PMC. The first, for the demonstration habitats was not funded. The second, creating a Western Region CBC Work Group was. PMC staff are active in this workgroup.

We enjoy a very fruitful, long-term collaboration with Xerces which began in 2006. They have been guest speakers at many outreach events including the project farm walks. They add vital, quality and popular information about and identification of native pollinators. We have staffed conference tables, created workshops, and collaborated on four grant proposals with Xerces. Two of which have been funded. The first funded grant was the western region CBC workgroup proposal and the second was a WSARE, 2-year, train the trainer grant. Xerces staff are active members of the Western Region CBC Work Group.

The 47th Ave Farm, being a truly urban farm, has been directly responsible for our collaborations with two Portland area parks, Zenger and Luscher. They have hosted several farm walks and we are currently collaborating to create more demonstration habitat at both parks. Zenger Park is home to 47th Avenue Farm’s beetle bank. We are negotiating insectary hedgerow plans at Luscher Park with NRCS, Xerces, 47th Ave Farm and park staff. Both parks have community garden spaces and public classes. Luscher Park houses OR Tilth’s Research and Education Farm. These demonstration habitats will be visited by local gardeners, school children and farmers on an annual basis.

At the very first field class on beetle bank development in 2005 at WDF we invited OSU’s Southern Oregon Extension Station staff from Medford to participate. Since then we have enjoyed multiple collaborations with the staff at the station and on southern Oregon farms. These include a farm walk in 2007 at Stahlbush Island Farm, a collaborative presentation on beneficial habitat, including beetle banks, at an integrated Soil Nutrient and Pest Management Education Program (iSNAP/OSU Extension) for small farmers in Medford, in March 2008 with Xerces and help working with cooperating WDF in Grants Pass. Plans are in the works to hold a future Bugscaping Fair in Medford at the research station. This FSB event brings researchers, farmers and community together in an interactive process to learn about functional agricultural biodiversity (FAB) and will include information learned from and about this project.

Contributions to Research
The establishment of beetle banks is a highly efficient use and enhancement of precious farm resources, soil, water and biodiversity of farm habitat. The successful establishment, maintenance, and assessment of the banks requires knowledge of the natural cycles of native grasses, farm weed and pest cycles as well as the ecology and biology of the beetles themselves. In partnership with area farmers this project has created information farmers can use to develop conservation habitat, specifically beetle banks on their farms. Farmers and researchers are continuing to refine this technology. All the participating farmers in this project wish to expand their use of beetle banks and other beneficial habitat on their farms which is testimony to the success of this project. We have successfully shared our information with farmers across the PNW. Farmers have identified future steps to refine beetle bank establishment and vital questions that need to be answered regarding the use of beetle banks (see Future Recommendations section of this report). The future steps are a roadmap for successful development and adoption of beetle bank technology. They are a valuable product of the successful participatory process of this project. Brodt et al. (2004) argue that the key to increasing the adoption of biologically integrated farming systems is answering the questions: what characteristics are farmers looking for in new farming practices, what information do they need, and which outreach format will enable them to learn the most. This project has successfully employed participatory approaches that enhance farmers probabilities of adopting CBC practices such as on-farm beetle banks by enabling participating farmers to clearly identify the important characteristics of beetle banks through experiments on their farms. They have employed outreach techniques such as farm walks, field classes and farmer panels that have successfully enabled them to discuss, adapt and adopt project techniques. Also, through the project’s extensive outreach methods the participating farmers have become more proficient in presenting, demonstrating and teaching about CBC and beetle banks on their farms ( see Reactions from Producers). These successful participatory approaches can and should be modeled in other projects.

This project has also produced valuable preliminary data on on-farm populations of predacious ground beetles associated with farm habitat. This is the first information of its kind in the PNW and is helping us build our knowledge base of biodiversity in small farming systems. This knowledge base is vital to a successful regional CBC approach to increasing on-farm biodiversity (see Potential Contributions).

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

Farm walks, events where farmers host other farmers during the growing season, are a very popular strategy in Oregon. All FSB and project farm walks begin with a farm tour and an introduction to the farm from an ecological landscape and beneficial insect point of view and end with a pot luck dinner. Field classes are a spin off of the farm walks where farmers and researchers teach a more focused subject on the farm. This project’s field classes have included specific predacious ground beetle identification, beneficial insect biology, ecology and habitat needs, and beetle bank creation with participants. Over 150 farmers have participated in the projects’ 6 farm walks/tours, 2 field classes, 4 presentations and 2 farmer dinners. As a result we maintain a mailing list of over 150 local farmers. FSB continues to conduct beetle bank farm walks highlighting participating farmers’ beetle banks. The most current was held at Persephone Farm in July 2008 with over 20 farmers attending.

The first year of this project we conducted a total of 2 on-farm field classes for farmers, 4 farmer field tours, one farmer slide and poster presentation at a local watershed district winter meeting and one combined farmer winter meeting and field class. The combined meeting was held at Persephone Farm in November 2006. It served as the farmers’ winter meeting, farmer’s dinner (instead of breakfast), second field class on predacious ground beetles and one of the three tours. Three of the participating farmers attended and we were able to discuss the project’s next steps, and poster designs in addition to touring the banks and studying beetles trapped on the farm that summer and fall. The first field class was in September at Zenger Park in Portland where 47th Ave Farm and attendees created a 4 X 100 foot beetle bank by hand. It was attended by two farmers, one garden manager, one farm manager and four farm interns. In October 2006 a small beetle bank tour at Gathering Together Farm in Philomath, OR was given to the field representative of Small Planet Foods of Washington. He, in cooperation with Dr. Terry Miller of Washington State University (WSU) has created two beetle banks with a farmer in eastern Washington. Another farmer from Bend, OR also toured the bank. These tours were given in conjunction with a farm meeting of another OSU project that was being held concurrently. In August 2006 Persephone Farm hosted an afternoon beetle bank tour for a group of 12 students studying sustainable agriculture from Evergreen State College in Washington. The fourth beetle bank tour was with the OR Technical Working Group of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The group of farmers and researchers visited the research beetle banks at OSU Hyslop Research Station and heard a brief presentation on the Banking on Beetles in OR project.

The second year we conducted one farm walk and presented 2 farmer habitat presentations. A second farm walk was tentatively scheduled at WDF for this year but had to be cancelled. The first presentation consisted of a farmer panel, beetle bank tour, and dinner held at Gathering Together Farm November 2007. Participating farmers, John Eveland of GTF, and Elanor O’Brien of Persephone Farm and visiting farmer, Peter Kenagy of Kenagy Family Farms were the farmer presenters on on-farm beetle banks and beneficial habitat. Twenty four farmers attended the event from as far north as Portland and as far south as Medford. GTF’s beetle bank was toured. The farmers presented and the details and discussed the pro’s and con’s of creating beetle banks, insectary plantings and hedgerows on their farms. The press release, newspaper article, and participant list for this event is included in Appendix IV.

The second farmer panel entitled Implementing Conservation Biological Control was presented at the Washington Tilth Producers Annual Conference in Yakima, WA, November 10, 2007. Due to the timing of this conference no project participating farmers (who were still attending multiple farmers markets and harvesting winter storage crops) were able to attend. Gwendolyn Ellen represented the farmers and presented their posters. Other speakers were Brad Bailie of Lynwood Farms in Washington. Brad, an organic vegetable farmer, has created a beetle bank and other habitats on the edges of his center pivot with Dr. Terry Miller, a WSU entomologist, and the Small Planet Foods field consultant. The panel was well attended by over 25 farmers. A conference program and evaluation of this panel is included in Appendix V.

Three project posters of GTF, Persephone and 47th Ave Farm were created. Farmers and Ellen designed the posters. They depict an oral and photographic history of each farm’s unique techniques used in developing and establishing their beetle banks. Each poster includes generic information on raising beetle banks for farmers and specific information on the individual farms. The farmers took these posters to presentations they made, conferences they attended and farmers markets they participated in throughout the two years. GTF ordered 5 posters for their multiple farmers markets and Persephone Farm is on their second edition poster as the first one became too worn to use. The posters are posted on the www.beetlebank.org website under the Beetle Banks in Oregon link. An example of the GTF poster is included in Appendix VI.

Gwendolyn Ellen had tables and presented posters on the Banking on Beetles project at Oregon Tilth’s annual meeting and Washington Tilth Producers annual conferences in 2006 and 2007 and OSU’s Small Farm Conference in 2006. Each conference had well over 100 farmers in attendance. Elanor O’Brien of Persephone Farm presented her poster to over 60 vegetable growers and gardeners at a Clackamas Community Conference Workshop in January 2007 and at the Yaquina Watershed Council meeting in 2006.

Banking on Beetles Field Summaries for 2006 and 2007 were sent by mail and email to participating farmers. They are also posted on the website. Included were summaries of beetle banks raised, the grasses sown, methods used and approximate costs incurred. For an example see Appendix VII. A 2008 summary will be posted on the website after data collation is complete.

The Banking on Beetles in Oregon website, www.beetlebank.org was established in November 2006. Details and pictures of most of the events summarized in this final report can be found there. The value of the project’s website is immeasurable. The ability to say, “check out the pictures/summary/posters on the web” is definitely one of the best gifts computer technology has to offer. The number of positive comments received about the site and the number of people who have mentioned their visits there are too numerous to remember. Some memorable contacts from the past two years include: the NRCS staff member from Grants Pass, Oregon who called to explain she couldn’t make a particular farm walk she learned about on the website. Since then she has participated in two project events and is cooperating with FSB and a local farmer to plan habitat that includes a beetle bank in his orchard in Medford; and the National Center of Appropriate Technology (NCAT) staff member from Davis, CA who edited the site and visited GTF’s beetle bank May, 2007 and has become an active member of the Western Region CBC Work Group. The website had an estimated 8,959 visits in 2007. It will be kept up and running thanks to IPPC funds.

Information on the project has been published in professional, regional, and local publications and featured on local television stations. In the summer 2006, our grant award announcement was sent to the editors of OSU’s Environmental Toxicology Newsletter and publicity “moments” seemed to spiral upward from that point. The announcement was picked up and published campus wide in the Sustainability Newsletter of OSU. A writer in the Cooperative Extension office read the announcement and asked if she could do a state-wide press release on the project (see Appendix VIII). This press release resulted in at least three known articles in local newspapers. One article was in our local paper and included an interview with John Eveland from GTF and Gwendolyn Ellen (see Appendix IX). A local television station saw the newspaper article and came out to film the farmer and fledgling beetle bank for the evening news. In addition to the limelight series of above events, event releases were sent for each project event to local newspapers, event calendars, cooperative extension newsletters, posted on the website and emailed to our farmer network list. They were almost always published verbatim in the local agricultural newspaper The Capital Press.

The project received a no-cost extension until June 2008 to continue working with WDF. They were unable to participate fully over the last two years. In order to re-establish connections with farmers in the southern part of Oregon, where WDF is located Gwendolyn Ellen conducted a farm walk in Medford in 2007. Nineteen very enthusiastic farmers attended this event. Funds for this event were donated by IPPC. The Southern Oregon Research Station donated supplies and materials. This event is mentioned under outreach as it was used as outreach for the SARE project in an indirect way. One direct benefit to this project was seen in November as the manger of the farm that hosted the 2007 Medford Walk came to the farmer panel on beetle banks and habitat at GTF and is planning to install habitat at Oregon’s largest organic vegetable farm, Stahlbush Island Farm in Medford.

Work from the Banking on Beetles in Oregon Project was mentioned in an article in OSU’s Oregon’s Agricultural Progress Fall 2007, Vol.53, No.2 pages 6-7. A copy of this article is included in Appendix X.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:
Results, Milestones, Discussion

Objective One: To help Oregon farmers develop experimental beetle banks of their own design on their farms. This involves developing techniques for beetle bank construction and establishment.

In 2006, our targets were on development of bank construction techniques, bank establishment and sharing techniques through farm walks and meetings. In 2007, we worked on fine tuning bank establishment, maintenance and weed management in addition to fulfilling our objectives of understanding the characteristics of the grasses we had selected, and the occurrence and diversity of predacious ground beetles on the farms. In 2006, three research banks were erected at OSU, not under the scope of this grant and three were erected on participating farms (see Impacts and Materials and Methods section for details on these banks). Two of the three farm banks succumbed to weed pressure. One, at Persephone Farm was tilled in and the other, at 47th Ave Farm was tilled in 2007, re-raised, covered in plastic for a season and will be seeded fall 2008.

Two contributing factors to Persephone Farm’s decision to till in their 2006 bank were that in the spring there was more quackgrass (Elytrigia repens) than native bunch grass on the bank and secondly, one end of the bank ended up inside the chicken pen.

Persephone’s other two other beetle banks are the oldest in Oregon. They are four years old. Research shows it takes 4-7 years for beetles to colonize a bank so most of our field data on beetle populations is preliminary data in relationship to the functions of the bank. The older 500 foot bank that had served as the “poster bank” of the project, was seeded with water foxtail (Alopecurus geniculatus), slender wheat grass and blue wild rye. In its last two years it hosted more broadleaf weeds than in its first two years. Weed build up occurred due to the lack of mowing in the first years. The more problematic weeds on this bank were quackgrass, Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) and Himalaya blackberries (Rubus aremeniacus). Not mowing until its third year allowed broad-leaf weeds and weed grasses to proliferate, to the ultimate failure of the bank in its fourth year. Now all the banks are mowed annually, after the grasses have set seed. No negative responses have been noted from the mowing.

The different grass species were all distinct in their responses to weed pressure and lack of irrigation over time on the Persephone banks. The blue wild rye germinated and tillered well and effectively competed with weeds from the first year to the fourth. The water foxtail portion of the bank was less robust in 2007-2008. A lack of irrigation on the bank after the second year may have contributed to its decline. The slender wild rye section of this bank was not weeded at all in the first and second year and was thought lost to weeds. In the third year this section of bank had a beautiful, five foot stand of slender wild rye with few weeds. In contrast, Persephone’s second four year old bank, which contains a lot of perennial rye (Lolium multiflorum) and other broadleaf weeds, In 2004-2005 one could hardly find a native bunch grass on the bank. Now it has a nice combination of native grasses and less noxious weeds. This bank has never been weeded and is still standing. Persephone began mowing all the banks in 2007. The first bank was tilled in fall 2008. The cost to establish these two banks was estimated at $1200.

The 47th Ave. Farm’s failed, hand-raised beetle bank began as a 4’ by 100’ swathe cut through a summer cover of Sudangrass. It was the first bank to follow a cover crop and was lightly mulched with wheat straw. By spring many broad leaf leaves and very little native bunch grass had emerged. There are several factors that may have led to the poor stand of grasses. After seeding the bank we discovered some Sudangrass has the ability to emit weed-suppressive compounds, particularly as it decays. This ability apparently varies from cultivar to cultivar. Researchers at OSU and WSU agree there is a possibility the decomposing Sudangrass cover could have suppressed the native bunch grass seed germination. Another potential factor in the failure of the bank was introduced to us by staff at USDA’s Plant Material Center in Corvallis. They have seen suppression of native bunch grass germination when planted after wheat. Wheat straw was used on the bank as a mulch. Those two factors combined with a healthy, smothering flush of chickweed could well have added to the demise of the bank. The farmer feels that a flaming or two before seeding the bank may have enabled the native grass to flourish.

GTF transplanted three types of native grass plants onto a new beetle bank in spring 2006. This was the first farm bank to be spring transplanted. The transplants were watered in and provided a healthy, tillering plant within three weeks. With several robust outbreaks of red root pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus) on the bank, weeding was a vital and costly practice. Other weeds were reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea), field bindweed (Convulvulus arvensis), and other annual broadleaf weeds. A major flaming on portions of the bank was done on the bank just three weeks after transplanting. A crew of four came through the next day to weed the 25 % of weeds that were not impacted by the flaming. Four hand-weedings and one flaming finally held the pigweed in check and the bank is presently thriving with little weed competition and no further weed management except for annual mowing. The farmer felt another flame application or two would have probably done the job and have been more cost effective, however this theory was not able to be tested. The implications of flaming on grass growth and density was fairly visible. The Elymus spp. fared well, being upland prairie grasses, they evolved with fire. The water foxtail, however did not form as solid a ground cover as it had on other banks the first year. This is a lowland, wetlands type grass. By the middle of the summer most of the surviving Elymus transplants were healthy, with multiple tillers about 6-9 inches tall. More testing needs to be done on flaming grass plants on banks multiple times in a season due to the possibility of harming the grass plants past the point where they could recover enough to effectively compete with weeds. Total cost of this bank was estimated around $1500. Because native bunch grass seeds do so well when fall seeded it is questionable whether there are enough merits of spring transplanting banks to continue this practice. Clearly more research needs to be done on this topic as well.

Through each participating farmer developing their own methods of beetle bank establishment, unique to their cropping systems and with what farm implements were available to them a wealth of beetle bank technology for the PNW has been developed. Such technology includes native grass seed selection, site preparation techniques, raising and maintaining a beetle bank, seeding and transplanting banks and weed management practices. We have learned that each bank is unique in its size, placement and establishment and no two banks perform alike. Our research on technology of beetle banks demonstrates that the following are critical factors in the success of beetle banks in organic farming systems: repeatedly employing site preparation techniques that reduce the weed seed bank such as flaming and plastic mulching, the choice of native bunch grass varieties for seeding the bank, using viable, robust and fairly fresh native seed, and as much weed management as possible.

The most costly and labor intensive factor in establishing beetle banks in organic systems is weed management. Participating farmers and researchers have tested, hand-weeding, flaming, cover cropping, and mulching with plastic and organic material. Pre-emergence flaming worked best at the OSU research banks. Persephone Farm felt their pre-emergence flaming could be improved and repeated more often. GTF felt flaming the transplants on the bank was effective. All participating farmers are eager to refine bank weed management and site preparation which also has a lasting effect on weed management.

If we were to pick a “preferred protocol” for developing beetle banks in organic farming systems or retaining those practices that worked well under most situations it would look like the following table:

In reviewing this protocol it is important to keep in mind that banks are unique to their sites and farming systems. Think of them as small dynamic ecosystems in their own right that vary through time and remember we are still fine tuning beetle bank technology.

2. Make preliminary assessments of the value of on-farm beetle banks as pest management tools in vegetable farming systems.

The pitfall trap catches and soil samples from the banks from GTF and Persephone Farm for the two years of this project will provide us with preliminary data on the diversity of predacious ground beetle species occurring on the farm in the early bank years. They will also serve as baseline data that will help us determine future shifts in populations and species of beetles in fields in relation to habitat as we continue to collect yearly data on these farms. This data is the first of its kind for PNW farming systems. We are still in the process of identifying all of the field samples from 2006 and 2007 but we have been able to make some preliminary assessments that follow. Tragically, the 2006 soil sample data from the two farms and their banks was stolen before it could be entered in the data base but the 2007 soil samples have been completed and initially analyzed with the 2006 pitfall data.

From 2006 pitfall trapping at Persephone (8 stations, 3 dates), GTF (2 stations 1 data), and Hyslop (1 station 1 date) we caught 13 different species of Carabid beetles, at least 4 species of spiders, totaling 35 arthropod species overall.

From the February, 2007, soil core samples, 9 from Persephone, 5 from Hyslop, we have found 18 different species of Carabid beetles, 24 species of rove beetles, more than 20 species of spiders, and 9 species of ants for a total of about 139 species different arthropod species overall. There is clearly a greater diversity of beetles and arthropods in the 2007 soil core samples.

Figure 1. Total number of individuals collected in soil core samples on Persephone Farm in February 2007.

As the graph shows, the teasel meadow contained the highest number of beetles at Persephone. The teasel meadow is a field margin that has not been disturbed at Persephone except for periodic mowing. The beetle banks were only three years old when this data was taken. Research shows that it takes years for beetles to colonize in-field banks. Also beetles experts are quick to point out that beetles tend to aggregate in areas on the farm. Because our data set is so small we could well be missing the “best sites” completely.

The 2008 field data collected will mark our third year of taking data on beetle populations related to habitat including beetle banks on participating farms. The 2008 field data was funded by the Oregon Organic Cropping Research and allowed us to expand our trapping transects, and replications at Persephone Farm and GTF. From the 2008 pitfall trapping we caught 40 different species of beetle most of them Carabids, a total of 126 different arthropod species, 18 species of spiders, 2 species of daddy long legs, 2 distinct slug, 2 distinct snail, and 2 distinct worm species and one isopod species. Expanding the trapping has expanded the diversities and numbers of animals cataloged. 2008 soil core samples have not yet been collected. We also took predation, soil temperature, and detailed habitat feature data. We are currently statistically analyzing this data and our results will appear at www.beetlebank.org , on E Organic and in scientific journals.

3. Use the banks as a focus for observation, evaluation, learning and outreach among farmers using various participatory, community IPM approaches.
Details of how we met this objective are in the Publications and Outreach section of this report.

Reactions From Producers

A final evaluation was sent to the three active participating farmers in fall 2008. All were returned and a summary is included below:

Executive Summary

This evaluation tool is modeled after other IRB approved evaluation tools used in by the author is currently being submitted to OSU’s IRB for approval. All three active farmer participators filled out this evaluation. The summary is below and a copy of the evaluation tool is included in Appendix XI.

The biggest change in skill/knowledge level (+3.3) was tied with the participants' ability to identify predacious ground beetles and their ability to encourage them by creating on-farm beetle banks. The second greatest increase in skill (+3) was tied with participants' ability to understand the roles of predacious ground beetles on the farm and to give presentations on beneficial insects and habitat. Participants showed an increase in knowledge in all the 4 other project skill and learning objectives as illustrated in the table 1.

One hundred percent of the farmer respondents stated that participating in this project will change what they do to support predacious ground beetles on their farms. Changes that all intend to make include considering landscape ecology of their farm when making future pest management decisions (n=3), and creating new habitat for beneficial insects (beetle banks, insectary plantings, flowering cover crops, bee nest boxes, etc.) (n=3). Other changes farmers intend to make are; “create hedgerows, adjust management (tilling, mowing etc.) to increase beneficial populations, and allow for more undisturbed field margins to support beetle populations”.

Workshop Evaluation Results Table:

What additional information or support would be useful to you?

Farmer respondent one: Continue to develop knowledge about how the ecology of our field margins and beetle bank flora affect beetle populations. More background data on existing populations to see how they are changing as beetle banks develop.

Farmer respondent two: How high do beetle banks need to be? Seems like management would be easier (i.e. weeding, cultivation, flaming, mowing) if they did not have to be so high. Is it worthwhile to do beetle banks in the flood plain? How much water can they take for how long?

Farmer respondent three: Information on how other growers around the world establish beetle banks. The seed that was provided was useful. More research or the results of current research.

What were your expectations for this workshop? Were they fulfilled?

Farmer respondent one: They were modest expectations because there was so little data on ground beetle ecology. I think much good basic field science is creating a body of knowledge that will be helpful in promoting beneficial ground beetles.

Farmer respondent two: Learning more about how to make the beetle bank and how they work. Yes expectations were fulfilled.

Farmer respondent three: Learn how to establish beetle banks and find out if they are a worthwhile endeavor. Our expectations were partially fulfilled. We had some success in establishing two banks, but one was recently turned over due to competition from perennial weeds. More work on establishment techniques needs to be done on this farm and it would be most helpful to find out how other growers, particularly in the UK and New Zealand establish beetle banks. We have yet to see any research results on the effects of the banks on beetle populations. We hope these results will be forthcoming in the near future.

Recommendations:

Potential Contributions

The beetles and spiders that colonize a bank have the potential to make a long term, beneficial impact on many pest species (Lee et al.,2001, Menalled et al., 2007 for weeds) thus providing alternatives to other toxic, labor intensive, oil dependent, habitat destructive or soil tilth damaging pest management techniques helps to sustain the economic viability of the farmers. At a 2005 Pacific Northwest Farmer to Farmer Exchange, in Breitenbush, OR farmers expressed simple factors such as the hum of bees, presence of beneficial organisms like lady bird beetles and praying mantis, birds and birdsong and flowers in bloom add to the quality of their lives. These are also indicators of biodiversity. Establishment of beetle banks on farms has the potential to enhance the quality of life of farmers by not only decreasing their reliance on toxic pest management techniques but also by increasing the biodiversity of farms in terms of habitat and organisms. Beetle banks also help certified organic growers remain compliant with the USDA National Organic Program Rule which requires the conservation of biodiversity and the maintenance or improvement of natural resources on the farm (Riddell 2004). Increasingly, other product certifiers such as Salmon-Safe and Food Alliance of Oregon have standards that include enhancing farm biodiversity as well.

Banking on Beetles in Oregon was a community IPM project that stimulated farmers to think about their farms in landscape ecology terms and their place in the regional, ecological scheme of place. It has had a positive impact on their farms and the local environs by creating semi-permanent habitat for beneficial organisms. The participatory process and farmer-to-farmer sharing from this project has the ability to strengthen regional farmer networks as well by supporting the work of innovative farmer-leaders. Farmers’ participation in the design of this and its satellite projects help strengthen the relevancy of our work and the potential for farmer adoption of the practices we study (Brodt et al. 2008).

The collaborations and demonstration habitats created and inspired by this project have the capacity to inform a wide audience of researchers, agency personnel, industry representatives, conservationists and farmers throughout the west on the development of beetle banks and the predacious ground beetles associated with them.

The contribution of basic arthropod biodiversity associated with farm habitat data is a valuable starting point for all future regional CBC farming system research. Our expanded knowledge of which beetles are occurring on Oregon farms correlated with when and where is a valuable foundation to begin more studies on their impact on farm pest management. Our contributions to the technology of building beetle banks will aid other farmers throughout the region to experiment and create on-farm beetle banks.

Future Recommendations

Participating farmers listed the following as key areas where more information is needed in order to effectively incorporate beetle banks into their pest management toolbox:
1. Where are the beetles occurring on their farms in relation to field crops and habitat features?
2. What are the beetles consuming?
3. Are different numbers of beetles associated with different grasses? Do non-native grasses work just as well?
4. How far do beetles travel in farm fields?
5. How many banks would I need per acre to significantly increase on-farm predacious ground beetle populations?
6. Does it make a difference if broad-leaf plants and weeds are on the bank?
7. How high do beetle banks need to be?
8. Is it worthwhile to do beetle banks in the floodplain?

A one year USDA CSREES grant under the Oregon Organic Cropping Research Program has been acquired to begin addressing three of the key areas of 1) appropriate sizing and spacing of banks on farms and 2) where beetles are actually occurring on farms and 3)evidence that banks actually improve pest suppression. Clearly more research is needed to answer the pertinent research questions particpating farmers have identified.

Vital concerns for organic growers wishing to establish habitat features such as beetle banks on their farms are organic site preparation and weed management. This project just scraped the surface of possibilities in developing such technologies. For beetle banks specifically more research needs to be done on flaming, mulching and mowing as weed management tools, the use of nurse crops of fast establishing grasses sequentially intercropped with slower growing, long-lived native bunch grasses, and bank edge management to mitigate encroachment of weeds into crop fields. The question of incorporating broadleaf plants in the bank in sections, mixed with grasses or on the edges merits more study as growers are increasingly interested in the aspect of multi-functional banks and/or combining habitat for beneficial insects and native pollinators.

In addition to the areas identified by participating farmers we need more basic regional information such as what species of predacious ground beetles might we expect to occur in which farming systems, what major species might we be missing or might be threatened and what behaviors do these beetles exhibit on farms (i.e. prey preference, how they locate prey and habitat and temperature preferences).

In more broad terms of farm biodiversity and conservation biological control the longer we are able to study on-farm beetle populations and the habitat associated with them the more patterns of biodiversity we will be able to recognize and understand. This will illuminate just what habitat, which of its characteristics and how much of it is important for on-farm predacious ground beetle populations.

Expanding the data collection to other farming systems such as orchards, berries, grass seed farms and vineyards and increasing the numbers of organisms studied to spiders, snakes, birds, and rodents etc. would not only create more diverse baseline data but would broaden the understanding of the depth and range of impact habitat features such as beetle banks can have on other beneficial and pest species. It would also provide vital regional information on functional agricultural biodiversity and provide the means for regional collaborations on projects. Researchers contend that due to the landscape scale benefits provided by the ecological services biodiverse farms can attribute a collection of land managers, may be a more appropriate unit of analysis than a single farm with one or two decision makers (Brodt et al. 2008).

Studies reveal that socio-cultural processes such as farmer proximity to each other, contacts of farmers to farmers through field classes and farm walks and farmer community leaders and those who facilitate these leaders (ambassadors) play vital roles in farmers adopting conservation practices (Sooby et al. 2007, Brodt et al., 2008). Therefore increasing the number of participatory projects in CBC that provide such roles for farmers as teachers, enhance farmers’ roles as community leaders and increase opportunities for researchers to be “ambassadors” are extremely important to the success of regional CBC. Continuing to refine farm walks for new farmers and researchers alike, developing more field classes, including a winter phase that presents farmers as educators and farms as the classroom, and developing new innovative ways for farmers to learn from other farmers is needed. Research on factors that support/influence the adoption of CBC practices at a local level (land ownership, cost value of crops, closeness to riparian zones, growing up on farms, college degrees, working off-farm etc) is appallingly rare and needs to be increased. We need to develop more local-level, formal, community support structures for CBC and the ecological services it provides such as Rural Conservation Districts and informally such as social networks or “clubs”. Infrastructures at the university level that formalize small sustainable farmers input to participatory sustainable agricultural research in a consistent, permanent manner need to be developed. An example of such infrastructure would be the liaison position funded by the Practical Farmers of Iowa at Iowa State University.

Researchers and farmers need more funding to travel to and experience first-hand, conservation and sustainable practices occurring within their region and in other parts of the country to be able to inform their own projects and regions. Regional CBC centers and workgroups need to be formed and those existing need to be adequately funded to enhance information exchanges and project collaborations. Last, but certainly not least, publications on the technology already gained through this project, regional farmer expertise in CBC and the diversity of predacious ground beetles found on the participating farms need to be developed and widely published.

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