Does floral farmscaping enhance biological control?
Aduba, Obinna Lebechukwu
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Floral farmscaping is the planting of flowering plants in proximity of target crops in order to attract and enhance the populations, fitness, and biological control efficacy of natural enemies. Flowering plants provide food resources such as pollen, floral, and extrafloral nectar for natural enemies. These food resources can be critical for survival and reproduction of natural enemies, and have therefore provided a means of manipulating natural enemies to enhance their biological control efficacy for pest management, in cropping systems. Flowering plants differ in their capacity to supply these food resources; therefore, it is important in designing a farmscaping system to screen potential flower plants to identify and work with those that attract and support desired natural enemies, while excluding those that might compromise the intended goal of pest suppression. We investigated the effects of two flowering plants (buckwheat, Fagopyrum esculentum (Moench) and Indian blanket, Gaillardia pulchella Foug.) on adults of the southern green stink bug, Nezara viridula (L.) (Heteroptera: Pentatomidae) parasitoid, Aridelus rufotestaceus (Tobias) (Hymenoptera: Braconidae). We also assessed the suitability of three flower treatments (buckwheat; a combination of fennel, Foeniculum vulgare (Mill.) and dill, Anethum graveolens (L.); and a combination of sunflower, Helianthus annuus (L.) and yarrow, Achillea millefolium (L.)) for enhancing parasitism of lepidopteran pests in an organic broccoli production system, and predation of sentinel eggs of the beet armyworm, Spodoptera exigua (Hübner) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae), in organic broccoli and cucumber systems. Aridelus rufotestaceus lived longer on flowers and 5% honey solution than on water alone. Feeding on Indian blanket and 5% honey solution increased production of mature ova. Apart from few inconsistent significant differences among treatments in the response variables, the flower treatments did not enhance parasitism of lepidopteran pests, as well as predation of S. exigua eggs. The results imply that F. esculentum and G. pulchella can benefit A. rufotestaceus for managing N.viridula. Our results on parasitism of lepidopteran pests and predation of S. exigua eggs might have been confounded by the size of the plots, interactions among predators and available prey, and history of the land.