Luring Generalist Predators from Field Borders to Control Crop Pests

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2016: $11,728.00
Projected End Date: 02/01/2018
Grant Recipient: Michigan State University
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Zsofia Szendrei
Michigan State University


  • Vegetables: asparagus


  • Crop Production: foliar feeding, application rate management
  • Education and Training: extension, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity
  • Pest Management: biological control, integrated pest management
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    Feeding by herbivores induces production of volatile secondary plant metabolites that play important roles in mediating plant-insect interactions in agroecosystems. By acting as prey location cues for predator and parasitoid insects, herbivore induced plant volatiles (HIPVs) can increase interactions between natural enemies and prey and have become an area of interest for biological pest control programs that seek to attract endemic natural enemies into fields from natural habitats. For specialty crop growers of the North Central Region, use of HIPV lures could have particular value in management programs as alternatives to chemical pest controls. However, such programs must be tailored to specific crops, target pests and relevant natural enemies of that pest to be effective. Our previous research has found that asparagus produces significantly higher concentrations of HIPVs (e)-beta-ocimene, (e e)-alpha-farnesene, and (1)-tetradecanol following 48 hours of feeding by common asparagus beetle larva, a monophagous feeder on asparagus globally. Y-tube olfactometer tests with a known polyphagous predator, the convergent lady beetle, demonstrated attraction to asparagus HIPV’s at specific concentrations in a lab setting . The goal of this research is to build upon these findings to develop a field deployed HIPV lure that can attract the convergent lady beetle from field border habitats into production fields to increase predator-prey interactions and decrease pest abundance, ultimately leading to increases in crop quality and productivity. Research will take place on five commercial asparagus farms where we will deploy asparagus HIPV lures, an unbaited control, and a positive control, mounted to a sticky trap. Immediately following lure deployment, releases of convergent lady beetles will be made in the field border downwind from the lure. Lures will be allowed to volatilize for one week, at which time sticky traps will be collected and returned to the lab to identify all predators, parasitoids, and pests that were attracted to the lure. Our data will determine if asparagus derived HIPV lures are effective at recruiting natural enemies into production fields from field border habitats. Results of this research will be shared widely through educational materials developed for growers, conference presentations, and collaborative educational workshops with non-profit groups. Overall, the utilization of HIPV based lures will likely increase natural enemy abundance in farms, reduce pesticide use, and increase crop quality and productivity in the North Central Region.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The primary goal of this research is to investigate the use of herbivore induced plant volatiles (HIPV) in field deployed lures as recruitment tools for endemic natural enemies of common asparagus beetle (Crioceris asparagi) in an effort to control beetle populations in asparagus. I will identify performance and attraction of HIPV lures to pests, predators, and parasitoids in a field setting, and this will further our understanding of the role chemical ecology can play in agroecosystems for conservation biological control. Learning outcomes will be accomplished through presentations, fact sheets, on farm workshops, and nation-wide outreach with non-profit farming organizations which will educate growers on the use of lures in agricultural pest management and strategies to support natural enemies. Action outcomes are to increase grower adoption of biological pest management strategies in specialty crops, increase predator-prey interactions in asparagus agroecosystems, decrease the use of broad spectrum insecticides in asparagus production, and increase the quality, yield, and profitability of asparagus in the North Central Region.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.