Predator insects for pest control

A farmer in North Yorkshire would like to set up a field lab to test whether predatory insects such as parasitic wasps, ladybirds, rove beetles and ground beetles can provide adequate control of insect pests of main arable crops including, wheat, barley, oilseed rape and beans.

For the trial, insecticides would be eliminated in the test plot. The test plot and control plot would need to be large enough to account for insect movements so that any differences observed are accurate and reliable. Predator and pest populations would be monitored over a 4 year rotation and other management practices would be sought (e.g. hedgerows, flower margins) to increase predator insect populations if needed. As a trial of this size carries a higher degree of risk to yields, the farmer is open to other suggestions for field labs on reducing pesticide use, increasing natural populations of predatory insects and monitoring on-farm biodiversity.

Insecticides disproportionately reduce predatory species populations as they are less able to develop resistance to pyrethroids as pest species due to their smaller population size. Therefore, though cheap, insecticides cause more harm than good in the long run. By eliminating these and increasing predatory insect populations, this might be deemed to be a “public good” under the new ELMS scheme.

If you are interested in collaborating with the farmer, please get in touch by emailing Rebecca Swinn at rswinn@soilassociation.org

 

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