Effects of floral diversification on beneficial arthropods and ecosystem services in an edamame agroecosystem

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2021: $14,998.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2023
Grant Recipient: University of Maryland
Region: Northeast
State: Maryland
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Anahi Espindola
University of Maryland, College Park


  • Vegetables: other


  • Crop Production: cropping systems, pollination
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement
  • Pest Management: biological control
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems

    Proposal abstract:

    Increased biodiversity within a habitat often enhances ecosystem services (e.g., pollination, natural enemy efficacy) and cropping systems are no exception. Studies show that crops benefit from diverse plant communities through enhanced services such as pest suppression, pollination and soil fertility. This helps explain why losses of natural habitat in agroecosystems and an associated reduction in floral diversity negatively affect beneficial arthropod populations while benefiting pests. An ecosystem-friendly response to this problem is to enhance floral diversity (e.g., wildflower strips, intercropping) and consequently biological services in cropping systems. Although floral additions may restore ecosystem services within a crop that were lost as a result of reduced plant diversity, little attention has been given to how these floral additions within a cropping system affect ecosystem services in neighboring habitats (e.g., grassland, forest). Further, virtually no research has concomitantly quantified the effects of enhanced floral diversity on natural enemy and pollinator diversity and their efficacy within the crop field and adjacent habitats. As such, objectives of this project are to quantify effects of floral diversification on (i) beneficial arthropod abundance and diversity within the crop and surrounding habitats; (ii) reproductive output of crops and wild plants in neighboring habitats, and (iii) pest control and pollination efficacy. A multimodal outreach plan will be used to disseminate information to stakeholders (e.g., growers, agricultural agents, farm advisors). This will include presentations at field day events within the study site, commercial farm walking tours and local and regional commodity meetings, and publications in commodity newsletters and blogs.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This proposal seeks to understand how floral diversification practices (i.e., the addition of wildflower strips and floral intercropping) within and bordering the crop, affect (1) the diversity and density of beneficial arthropod communities (natural enemies and pollinators), within the crop and in the surrounding habitat, and (2) pest control and the reproductive output of wild plant communities and crops. Specific objectives and sub-objectives are to:

    Objective 1. Quantify the effect of floral additions (i.e., wildflower strips and floral intercropping) on the abundance and diversity of beneficial arthropods in designated croplands and in neighboring wild plant communities. I hypothesize that arthropod diversity and abundance will increase in plots with higher combined flower density (intercropping and wildflower strip).

    Objective 2a. Assess how floral additions affect pest control and the reproductive output of crops and non-target (i.e., non-crop) wild plants in the neighboring landscape. I hypothesize that both pest control and the reproductive output of crops and wild plants will increase with proximity to floral additions.

    Objective 2b. Evaluate the spatial scale (e.g. distance) at which the floral additions affect beneficial arthropod diversity and abundance, and translate to direct ecosystem services (i.e., pest control, plant reproduction) by measuring the limits of the spillover effect of floral additions on the crop and the natural habitat. I hypothesize that increases in the diversity and abundance of arthropods is local and will decrease with increasing distance from the wildflower strips. I also hypothesize that the addition of wildflower strips and floral intercropping will lead to increased competition for ecosystem services between plants in natural and managed lands, leading to a reduction of ecosystem services in those plants that are the furthest away from the wildflower strips.

    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.