Effects of cover crops and pollinator habitat on beneficial arthropods in West Central Nebraska wheat

Tuesday, June 2, 2015
Big Basin (Manhattan Conference Center)
Kayla A. Mollet , West Central Research and Extension Center, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, North Platte, NE
Julie A. Peterson , Department of Entomology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, North Platte, NE
Agricultural ecosystems have the potential to enhance habitat for beneficial arthropods that provide ecosystem services, including pest control and pollination. With careful planning, farmers can improve productivity while creating habitat for beneficial species. The Conservation Stewardship Program administered by NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to qualified farmers planning to increase current conservation strategies, such as planting pollinator habitat and cover crops. This on-farm study looks at how conservation practices impact abundance and diversity of beneficial arthropods. The research site, located in West Central Nebraska, was a wheat field in which a cover crop mixture was planted on half the field bordered by pollinator habitat containing a mix of perennial wildflowers. Six transects were established to compare arthropod communities within the wildflowers and in the cover crop and non-cover crop areas of the wheat field at 5 and 30 m from the wildflower border. We hypothesize that wildflowers and wheat following cover crops will contain the highest abundance of beneficial arthropods. Yellow sticky cards, sweep nets, and pitfall traps were used to capture arthropods weekly. Natural enemies captured include ground beetles, parasitoid wasps, insidious flower bugs, lady beetles, and spiders. Pollinators include butterflies, hover flies, bee flies, and bees. Initial results suggest that a synergism exists between the two conservation practices, as cover crops may aid beetle movement from wildflower strips further into the wheat field. This research has practical implications for integrated pest management strategies in Nebraska, and provides an important link between sustainable agricultural practices and insect conservation.
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