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Relative influence of climate and agroenvironmental factors on wireworm damage risk in maize crops


A large-scale survey was carried out in 336 French fields to investigate the influence of soil characteristics, climate conditions, the presence of wireworms and the identity of predominant species, agricultural practices, field history and local landscape features on the damage caused by wireworms in maize. Boosted regression trees, a statistical model originating from the field of machine learning, were fitted to survey data and then used to hierarchize and weigh the relative influence of a large set of variables on the observed damage. Our study confirmed the relevance of an early assessment of wireworm populations to forecast crop damage. Results have shown that climatic factors were also major determinants of wireworm damage, especially the soil temperature around the sowing date, with a strong decrease in damage when it exceeds 12 °C. Soil characteristics were ranked third in importance with a primary influence of pH, but also of organic matter content, and to a lesser extent of soil texture. Field history ranked next; in particular, our findings confirmed that a long-lasting meadow appeared favourable to wireworm damage. Finally, agriculture practices and landscape context (especially the presence of a meadow in the field vicinity) were also shown to influence wireworm damage but more marginally. Overall, the predicted damage appeared highly correlated with the observed one allowing us to produce the framework of a decision support system to forecast wireworm risk in maize crop.

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The study was conducted as a part of the project “Crop protection against wireworm attacks: forecast of risks and new control strategy” with financial support from the French Ministry for Agriculture (CASDAR, Project No. 1133). We thank the maize farmers who accepted to participate in the survey and all the people who collected field data. SP acknowledges the INRA metaprogramme “Sustainable Management of Crop Health” for funding the COPACABANA project.

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Correspondence to Sylvain Poggi.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Communicated by C. M. Benefer.

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Poggi, S., Le Cointe, R., Riou, JB. et al. Relative influence of climate and agroenvironmental factors on wireworm damage risk in maize crops. J Pest Sci 91, 585–599 (2018).

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  • Wireworm damage
  • Risk assessment
  • Decision support system
  • Agriotes spp.
  • Boosted regression trees