Natural habitat can help farmers control pests, but not always a win-win

July 30, 2018

Songbirds and coffee farms in Central America. Ladybugs and soybean fields in the Midwest. These are well-known, win-win stories of how conserving natural habitat can benefit farmers.

But an international team of authors led by the University of California, Davis, found that natural habitat surrounding farm fields is not always an effective pest-control tool for farmers worldwide. Their analysis is published July 30 in the journal PNAS.

"There's a widespread assumption among ecologists that when you have more natural habitat around farm fields you get more enemies of the crop pests, and that these enemies will control the pests and provide a benefit to growers," said lead author Daniel Karp, an assistant professor in the UC Davis Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology.

To test that assumption, Karp and Rebecca Chaplin-Kramer of the Natural Capital Project at Stanford University organized an international team of ecologists, economists, and practitioners at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center. Together, they compiled the largest pest-control dataset of its kind, encompassing 132 studies from more than 6,700 sites in 31 countries worldwide -- from California farmlands to tropical cacao plantations and European wheat fields.

NOT ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL

Surprisingly, the results were highly variable across the globe. While many of the studies showed surrounding natural habitat does indeed help farmers control pests, just as many showed negative effects on crop yields. The analysis indicates that there are no one-size-fits-all recommendations for growers about natural habitat and pests.

"This paper isn't telling farmers to clear habitat by any means," Karp said. "There may be a lot of other benefits from natural habitat, such as pollination or carbon sequestration. But we need to be forthright about knowing when habitat conservation will be advantageous in terms of pests and when other means of pest control are needed."

Critically, Karp and his team of 153 co-authors have made their pest-control database publicly available, opening the door for further scientific insights. Karp hopes the database will grow over time and help inform predictive models about when surrounding habitat helps control pests and when it does not.
-end-
The research was supported by the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center and the National Science Foundation.

University of California - Davis

Related Crop Yields Articles from Brightsurf:

Study: crop diversification can improve environmental outcomes without sacrificing yields
Diversifying agricultural systems beyond a narrow selection of crops leads to a range of ecosystem improvements while also maintaining or improving yields, according to a new study that analyzed thousands of previously conducted experiments.

The ecology of crop pests
Ecological theory provides insights on pesticide use in agriculture

Ecologically friendly agriculture doesn't compromise crop yields
Research published in Science Advances--based on an analysis of 5,188 studies comparing diversified and simplified agricultural practices--indicates crop yield was maintained or even increased under diversified practices.

A red future for improving crop production?
Researchers have found a way to engineer more efficient versions of the plant enzyme Rubisco by using a red-algae-like Rubisco from a bacterium.

Choosing the right cover crop to protect the soil
Research helps farmers pick the best cover crops to keep their soil and nutrients in the field.

Pesticide-free crop protection yields up to US$ 20 billion/year benefits in Asia-Pacific
Scientists have estimated for the first time how nature-based solutions for agricultural pest control deliver US$ 14.6 to US$ 19.5 billion annually across 23 countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

Decline of bees, other pollinators threatens US crop yields
Crop yields for apples, cherries and blueberries across the United States are being reduced by a lack of pollinators, according to Rutgers-led research, the most comprehensive study of its kind to date.

Research: Crop plants are taking up microplastics
Scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) recently found that microplastics are indeed contaminating edible plants, including vegetables we eat.

Crop pathogens 'remarkably adaptable'
Pathogens that attack agricultural crops show remarkable adaptability to new climates and new plant hosts, new research shows.

The roots of a staple crop
About 9,000 years ago in the Balsas River Valley of southwestern Mexico, hunter-gatherers began domesticating teosinte, a wild grass.

Read More: Crop Yields News and Crop Yields Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.