Unravelling pest infestation and biological control in low-input orchards: the case of apple blossom weevil
Low-input farming is an alternative production system that provides a great opportunity to disentangle the natural mechanisms regulating crop pests, since neither pests nor their natural enemies are disrupted by pesticides. Here, we use a key apple pest in Europe, the apple blossom weevil (Anthonomus pomorum), as a model case to unravel the factors driving pest infestation and its biological control in a low-input context, namely the cider apple orchards of NW Spain. We applied a holistic approach based on the complete life cycle of the pest and combined large-scale observation (23 orchards) with small-scale experimental assessment. Weevil attack (0.4–37.4% of flowers) increased with the proportion on apple trees in the immediate orchard neighbourhood and with semi-natural woody habitat in the surrounding landscape and decreased with tree distance to orchard edge and apple bloom level. Thus, the prevalence of the pest depended on the availability of the various resources required for foraging, egg-lying and overwintering. Three types of natural enemies supplied complementary pest control by preying on weevils at different stages in their life cycle: seven parasitoid species attacked immature weevils (6.4–81.5%), while the additive effects of birds and crawling arthropods were evident in terms of the removal of adult weevils (31–44%). We conclude that the effective biological control of A. pomorum can be achieved in low-input systems to maintain the pest at non-harmful levels, through combined management of the pest, its habitat and its natural enemies.
KeywordsAnthonomus pomorum Biodiversity Complementary predation Ecosystem services Insectivorous birds Parasitoids
We thank Kent Twizell, David Luna, Carlos Guardado, Alejandro González and Alejandro Núñez for technical support; the technicians from Campoastur S. Coop. Asturiana for helping us with orchard selection; the orchard owners for allowing us to work on their orchards; and Vladimir Žikić, Hossein Lotfalizadeh and David Luna for identification of the parasitoid species.
This study was funded by grants INIA-RTA2013-00139-C03-01 (Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Competitividad (MinECo) and Fondo Europeo de Desarrollo Regional) to MM, PCIN2014-145-C02-02 (MinECo; EcoFruit project BiodivERsA-FACCE2014-74) and CGL2015-68963-C2-2-R (MinECo) to DG. Funding sources had no involvement in study design, collection, analysis or interpretation of data, the writing of the report or the decision to submit the article for publication.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.
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