- Agronomic: potatoes
- Education and Training: extension, on-farm/ranch research
- Farm Business Management: whole farm planning
- Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement
- Pest Management: biological control
- Production Systems: agroecosystems, holistic management
- Sustainable Communities: partnerships
To reduce its reliance on external inputs of pesticides modern agriculture must modify practices that disrupt ecosystem services such as natural pest control. Conservation biological control is one approach that aims to restore natural pest control to agroecosystems through, among other things, increasing non-crop habitat within the agricultural landscape. Wisconsin potato growers have recently expressed a desire for scientifically-based guidelines for restoration of natural habitats on their lands in ways that will improve the sustainability of their livelihood. Research proposed here is designed to produce information required for growers to incorporate conservation biological control into habitat restoration. Specifically, we will investigate (1) how the abundance and diversity of natural habitats surrounding crop fields affects the abundance and diversity of arthropod natural enemies of insect pests within the potato crop and (2) if increased abundance and diversity of arthropod natural enemies translates to improved control of potato pests. We hypothesize that increased landscape diversity surrounding crops results in a concomitant increase in natural enemy abundance, diversity and control of insect pests within the crop. To determine if this is the case, we will monitor levels of arthropod natural enemy abundance, diversity and pest suppression within fields surrounded by varying amounts of natural habitat throughout two growing seasons. A GIS will be used to quantify composition of the landscape surrounding fields. This research will provide the knowledge necessary to determine if, and how, growers might incorporate habitat restoration efforts into their pest management goals. Knowledge will be communicated through cooperation with the Wisconsin Potato Vegetable Grower’s Association and through professional and extension talks and peer-reviewed scientific publications. Throughout the process, the local community of potato growers and researchers will be consulted to ensure that research outcomes are relevant and applicable.
Project objectives from proposal:
In the short-term, project results will provide knowledge necessary for Wisconsin researchers and potato growers to assess the potential of habitat restoration to improve biological control of insect pests. Results will also indicate at what scale restorations should be made in order to be effective (local, individual efforts vs. coordinated, large-scale efforts); formulation of initial conservation biological control guidelines for growers will then be possible. Intermediate goals include incorporation of appropriate habitat restoration strategies into potato grower practices and remuneration for these efforts through government land-renewal programs, such as the Conservation Security Program. Long-term goals include incorporation of sustainable pest management practices into a broader program of environmentally sustainable agricultural practices which rely on natural, ecological function rather than external inputs to maintain productivity of cropland.