Alyssum flowers promote biological control of collard pests
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Collard greens Brassica oleracea (L.) are often attacked by various pests including whiteflies, aphids and diamondback moth. Hitherto, the main method used to manage these pests in Brazil has been the application of a limited number of registered insecticides. The search for more sustainable pest management strategies is therefore warranted. In this context, the conservation biological control stands out as an appealing alternative. Conservation biological control is achieved, at least in part, by strip-cultivating and/or conserving flowering plants within the agroecosystem. The present study investigates how alyssum flowers Lobularia maritima (L.) could contribute to the attraction of natural enemies and to the management of collard pests. Two field experiments were conducted in different years. Each experiment consisted of two treatments and three replicates, which were set up in a completely randomized design. The treatments were (1) collards alone, and (2) collards + alyssum. We evaluated weekly the population density of natural enemies and pests on both treatments. The results show that the alyssum flowers attractiveness contributed to increase the abundance of generalist predators during both experiments, which in turn translated into a significant reduction of collards pests, especially aphids. Some of the main predators attracted/harbored by alyssum flowers were spiders, coccinellids, syrphids and Orius sp. Finally, strip intercropping alyssum with collards can be an important strategy to manage brassica pests and cope with the limited availability of insecticides registered for this vegetable crop.