Flowering habitats for pest control

Seven farmers in the North East of England are exploring how flowering habitats affect the distribution, diversity and abundance of pest natural enemies.

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Field Lab Timeline

    6/30/2021 11:00:00 PM
  • Assessments of beneficial insects continues

    Assessments of beneficial insects continues
  • 9/30/2021 11:00:00 PM
  • Set up pitfall traps post harvest

    Set up pitfall traps post harvest
  • 11/1/2021 12:00:00 AM
  • Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus assessments begin

    Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus assessments begin
  • 2/16/2022 12:00:00 AM
  • Group farm visit/metting

    Group farm visit/metting
  • 3/30/2022 11:00:00 PM
  • End of barley yellow dwarf virus assessments

    End of barley yellow dwarf virus assessments
  • 5/14/2022 11:00:00 PM
  • Assessments of beneficial insects in flowering strips & main crop

    Assessments of beneficial insects in flowering strips & main crop
  • 5/31/2022 11:00:00 PM
  • Weekly aphid assessments

    Weekly aphid assessments
  • 7/14/2022 11:00:00 PM
  • Assessments of plant species composition in flowering habitats

    Assessments of plant species composition in flowering habitats
  • 8/30/2022 11:00:00 PM
  • Final report published

    Final report published
For further information hover over the above milestone marks
  • Discussion

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  • Achievements

    February 2022

    Trial details

    The group met in February to discuss the trial protocols. Key questions regarding the impact flowering margins/strips have on pest control include:
    • Is there a difference between conventional and organic sites?
    • Can we quantify the impact of flowering mixes on pest control (and can this be linked to reduced insecticide use across varying soil types)?
    • Is there an impact of establishment technique?
    • Do regenerative practices increase the distance beneficials travel into the crop?

    The farmers main pest pressures are Cabbage stem flea beetle, Bruchid beetle, Bird cherry oat aphid, slugs and crows. Main weed concerns are brome, blackgrass, foxtail fescue, bindweed, poppies, mayweed and fat hen.


    • All fields (control and treatment) on all sites have hedgerows – group to provide hedgerow establishment & other metadata
    • All sites will include flowering margin, some willing to include in-field flowering strips
    • Most farmers in the group are not using pesticides

    • Water traps/sticky traps etc. will need guidance on set up
    • Suggested monitoring at distances into the crop to see migration – 50m–250m into crop
    • Farmers to assess/record observations of pest damage into the crop
    • Group not interested in assessing weed migration into the field

    Flowering mixes:

    • Information on current mixes can be found in the farmer profiles, below
    • William has had an unsuccessful first attempt at establishing flowering mix – isn’t sure what will grow on soil type
    • Some growers constrained by environmental schemes although most open to suggestion of mix (potentially tailoring species to target beneficials)

    Group members will communicate via a WhatsApp group throughout the trial. AHDB will provide a record sheet for each assessment timing and send reminder email for assessments and sending traps. There will also be an online meeting when the protocol has been finalised to train those doing assessments.

    Milestone: Group farm visit/metting

    November 2021

    Background to the trials

    The field lab will measure the impact of establishment techniques and species mixtures on the diversity and abundance of natural enemies supported by flowering habitats on commercial farms. Ultimately, the field lab will help farmers see if flower strips can help them to reduce their use of insecticides.

    This trial design and associated data collection will provide information on both the spatial and temporal diversity and abundance of flowering species and their associated beneficial insects. The field lab will also produce quantitative data on pest pressure (aphids) and associated crop observations (e.g. BYDV).

    The assessments will serve a dual purpose; to provide a baseline quantitative dataset but also to provide farmers with practical ways of conducting their own on farm monitoring for the future.

    100 m transects will be set out in each flowering habitat. Where the flowering habitats are field margins, or strips within the crop, additional transects will be completed 10 m into the field and 100 m into the field (the distance between the transects will be determined at the time of sampling depending on field size and the location of the flowering habitats). Four assessment points will be used on each transect.

    The following measurements will be taken on each site by participating farmers:
    - Plant species composition in the flowering habitat
    - Predatory insects and pests - The predatory insects to be assessed in this trial (ground beetles, rove beetles, soldier beetles, spiders, hoverflies, ladybirds, parasitic wasps and dance flies) are known predators of common farmland pests including wireworms, leatherjackets, wheat bulb fly, orange wheat blossom midge, gout fly and frit fly
    - Pitfall trapping for ground dwelling species within the crop and within flowering habitats
    - Yellow sticky traps for aphids, natural enemies and BYDV presence within the crop
    - Visual assessments of above ground arthropods
    - Moth buckets as an indicator of a healthy ecosystem

    Milestone: Set up pitfall traps post harvest

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