Cover Crops for Enhancing Cherry Orchard Habitat for Beneficial Invertebrates

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2021: $30,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2023
Host Institution Award ID: G225-22-W815
Grant Recipient: Oregon State University
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Graduate Student:
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Sandy DeBano
Oregon State University
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Christopher Adams
Oregon State University Mid-Columbia Agricultural Research and E


  • Fruits: cherries


  • Crop Production: cover crops, pollinator habitat
  • Education and Training: extension, on-farm/ranch research
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement, wildlife
  • Pest Management: biological control, chemical control, integrated pest management
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, other

    Proposal abstract:

    The Mid-Columbia Basin is the dominant cherry production region in Oregon, producing approximately 80% of the state’s cherries. When new orchards are planted, the ground under young trees is typically left bare. However, planting cover crops in new orchards may provide habitat for diverse beneficial invertebrates (hereafter “beneficials”), some of which play key roles in pest control. When cover crops are planted, producers must decide on a seed blend to use, despite scarce information on how different blends influence beneficials. Adjacent natural lands also likely harbor beneficials, which can provide additional pest-control services to nearby orchards.

    This study will examine how communities of beneficials are influenced by different cover crop blends and adjacent natural habitats. We will sample beneficial and pest invertebrates in five habitats associated with orchards: 1) new orchard - bare ground, 2) new orchard - grass-dominant cover crop, 3) new orchard - mixed forb/grass cover crop, 4) mature orchards, and 5) natural habitat fragments. Results from the project will be shared with producers via two extension publications and presentations at farm fairs in Hood River and Hermiston. We will convey results with the scientific community at conferences and in peer-reviewed publications. Finally, results will be shared with the public in a series of educational videos to be released on YouTube. This project addresses several “critical needs” identified by a 2018 working group on sweet cherry production in Washington and Oregon. Several members of the working group have indicated support for this project (see letters of support).

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Research Objectives:

    1. Inventory non-pollinator beneficial invertebrates in orchards and natural habitats in the Mid-Columbia Basin and examine habitat characteristics associated with their distribution and community composition.
    2. Determine the ability of different cover-cropping regimes (no cover crop vs. grass dominant cover crops vs. a grass and forb mixed cover crops) to enhance beneficial invertebrate communities.
    3. Investigate the ability of different cover-cropping regimes to reduce the abundance of three common pest taxa (spotted wing drosophila (SWD), aphids, and leafhoppers).

    Education and Outreach Objectives:

    1. Share research results about beneficial invertebrates, the value of adjacent natural habitat fragments, and project outcomes related to the use of cover crops in cherry orchards with fruit producers in the Columbia Basin.
    2. Present project results to the scientific community via conference presentations and publications in the primary literature.
    3. Create targeted educational content related to beneficial invertebrates designed to connect urban audiences to sustainable agricultural research and practices.
    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.