Utilizing Native Plants to Enhance Insect and Weed Biological Control

Project Overview

LNC04-249
Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2004: $150,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Matching Federal Funds: $18,329.00
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Douglas Landis
Michigan State University

Annual Reports

Commodities

  • Agronomic: corn, oats, soybeans, spelt, wheat, grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Vegetables: beans
  • Additional Plants: native plants

Practices

  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Crop Production: windbreaks
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, focus group, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement, hedgerows, riparian buffers, riverbank protection, soil stabilization, wildlife, hedges - woody
  • Pest Management: biological control, competition, disease vectors, integrated pest management, trap crops, weed ecology
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, permaculture
  • Sustainable Communities: partnerships, public participation, social psychological indicators

    Abstract:

    Single species and communities of native plants were evaluated in research plots and on-farm trials to determine their effectiveness in enhancing biological control of key pests. Participants included the owner/operator of a native plant nursery, field crop producers, university research & Extension personnel, USDA NRCS Plant Materials Centers, and state/local Conservation Districts. We identified 23 native plant species that attracted natural enemies and pollinators and assisted two farmers with incorporating these native perennial plants into their farming systems. During the project duration, we participated in 34 workshops and talks on how to enhance biocontrol with native plants, with a total audience of greater than 2500 agricultural professionals, farmers, scientists, and conservation practitioners. In 2005, our website had 1478 hits/month, a rate that more than doubled in 2006 to 3608 hits/month (43,300 total in 2006). In 2007, the impact of the website continued to increase, with 3912 hits/month in the 3rd quarter and 4395 in the fourth quarter. These visits represented visitors from 46 states, 8 Canadian provinces, and over 63 countries in 2007. In 2008, these numbers were even greater, with 6726 hits/month (80,714 total).

    In 2008, we also posted our information to the eXtension branch, eOrganic, in an article titled “Attracting Beneficial Insects with Native Flowering Plants” so that the website and the downloadable publications and teaching tools are more accessible to extension professionals and organic growers across the U.S (http://eorganic.info/node/2866).

    Via our extension bulletin distribution and our website, we will continue to educate agricultural professionals, farmers, scientists, and conservation practitioners. In the intermediate-term, we are sharing our vision of reintroducing native flowering perennials in the landscape. This has potential in the long-term to increase biological control and reduce pesticide use in the north central region, improve the economic viability of crop and native plant producers, and enhance the quality of life in rural communities.

    Introduction:

    Many beneficial insects require daily access to plant nectar, pollen, or shelter to prolong their life and enhance reproduction and in turn help control insect and weed pests in adjacent farmlands. The use of native plants to enhance biological control can increase farm sustainability and reduce pesticide use while improving soil, water and biodiversity conservation. For this project we studied the effects of native plants on enhancing biological pest control while linking farmers, conservation educators and native plant producers with common interests in ecologically-based pest management.

    The projects objectives were to:
    1) Design and test native plant species and communities to enhance insect and weed biological control.
    2) Develop research-based sources of information on native plant materials and their use in pest management.
    3) Link native plant and crop producers with conservation educators through educational events designed to enhance use of native plants in agricultural systems.

    Project objectives:

    Objective 1. Design and test native plant species and communities to enhance insect and weed biological control.

    Objective 2. Develop research-based sources of information on native plant materials and their use in pest management.

    Objective 3. Link native plant and crop producers with conservation educators through educational events designed to enhance use of native plants in agricultural systems.

    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.