- Crop Production: cropping systems, pollination
- Education and Training: extension, on-farm/ranch research
- Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement
- Pest Management: biological control, integrated pest management
- Production Systems: agroecosystems
- Sustainable Communities: quality of life
As intensity of agricultural practices increases in South Florida, areas tend to become unsuitable environments for insect-mediated interactions to persist, affecting productivity of crop plants and farmers’ livelihood in the long-term. Habitat resource enhancement strategies have been applied to cope with invasive pests and loss of pollinators resulting from importations, tourism industry, habitat fragmentation, hurricanes and unsustainable farming practices. However, inclusion of native perennial plants as insectary plants should be explored to achieve a long-term restoration of local biodiversity to enhance natural pest control and biotic pollination in agricultural ecosystems. The plan of this project is to transplant seedlings of native perennial legumes in two types of farms (conventional and organic) to assess how the changes in habitat resources affect the diversity and abundance of beneficial insects that can contribute to crop production. In addition, farmers collaborating in this project will be interviewed to gather their observations during the process. The long-term goal is to cultivate native plants as insectary plants in farms to increase the range of native vegetation, natural enemies, and pollinators, while enhancing crop production. The objectives of this project are centered on using linkages between natural and human systems to determine how the changes in habitat resources affect the diversity and abundance of beneficial insects and food production. The support of the local extension office will allow this project to reach other farmers through presentations given during growers’ meetings to provide information regarding native insectary plants as alternative resources for beneficial insects.
Project objectives from proposal:
|This project will investigate the effects of a native perennial legume on beneficial insects, crop production and farmer behavior in agricultural sites. The aims of this project are centered on how the changes in habitat resources affect the diversity and abundance of beneficial insects and food production. Specifically, this project aims to:
1. Determine if the rate of pollinator visitations will be greater for crops located in areas nearby native insectary plants. Given that preliminary observations of Senna mexicana chapmanii show that pollinators such as caterpillars of Sulphur butterflies feed on their leaves and bees feed on their pollen, the crops located near Senna mexicana chapmanii will possess a greater rate of pollinator visitations.
2. Determine whether the number of natural enemies will be greater for crops located in areas nearby native insectary plants. Given that natural enemies such as parasitoids, wasps, beetles and ants use Senna mexicana chapmanii for shelter and nutrition, the crops located near Senna mexicana chapmanii will possess a greater number of natural enemies that attack their pests.
3. Determine if crop production will be greater for crops located in areas nearby native insectary plants. Because of increased biotic pollination and increased natural pest control from insects attracted by insectary plants, crop yield will increase.
4. Determine if farmers will prefer the inclusion of native plants as insectary plants. Given an increase in crop production, farmers will cultivate Senna mexicana chapmanii as an insectary plant.