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Open AccessArticle

Impact of Cover Crops on Insect Community Dynamics in Organic Farming

1
Department of Biology, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Edinburg, TX 78539, USA
2
Department of Biology, School of Earth, Environmental, and Marine Sciences, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Edinburg, TX 78539, USA
*
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Agriculture 2020, 10(6), 209; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture10060209
Received: 18 April 2020 / Revised: 3 June 2020 / Accepted: 4 June 2020 / Published: 8 June 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Crop Protection, Diseases, Pest and Weeds)
Manipulating cover crops as an integrated pest management strategy has recently gained popularity in both traditional and organic agroecosystems. However, little information is available for producers to make informed decisions about cover crop selection, management, and their potential use as a pest management tool. To address this, we conducted a two-year, four-season field experiment on the potential of various cover crops during the summer seasons of both years, followed by monocultures of cash crops during winters. We hypothesized that the cover crop treatments would attract beneficial insects and repel damaging herbivores in a species-specific manner, and the insect community dynamics would be bridged to the cash crops in the subsequent season. In addition, we hypothesized that cash crops would suffer lower herbivory damage following specific cover crop treatments. Our design comprised of three cover crops. Our results indicate that cover crops support beneficial insects during the early summer season, while the time of growing season doesnot affect herbivore abundance. Crop-specific effects were found for herbivore abundance with possible cascading effects on insect community as well as damage levels on the subsequent cash crop, but without any impact on the growth traits of the cash crop. Together, our data suggest that cover crops, when carefully selected, can be an integral part of a pest management strategy for sustainable agriculture. View Full-Text
Keywords: cover crops; organic farming; biocontrol; beneficial insects; herbivores cover crops; organic farming; biocontrol; beneficial insects; herbivores
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MDPI and ACS Style

Martinez, L.; Soti, P.; Kaur, J.; Racelis, A.; Kariyat, R.R. Impact of Cover Crops on Insect Community Dynamics in Organic Farming. Agriculture 2020, 10, 209.

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