University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

Wildflower strips enhance pest regulation services in citrus orchards

Mockford, Alice, Urbaneja, A., Ashbrook, Kate ORCID: and Westbury, D. ORCID: (2024) Wildflower strips enhance pest regulation services in citrus orchards. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 370 (109069). pp. 1-14. ISSN 0167-8809

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Contemporary approaches to agriculture must be reimaged to include ecological techniques that maximise
ecosystem services, so that food can be produced sustainably whilst simultaneously meeting yield demands. Pest
regulation services, harnessed through the conservation of natural enemies in the agri-environment are an
economically important service degraded by conventional citrus production practices. For the first time, a sown
wildflower strip composed of native forbs and tussock-forming grasses has been investigated for its influence on
natural enemies and their pest regulation services in citrus orchards. A novel management strategy was applied,
using the predicted generation times of Aonidiella aurantii Maskell (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), a key pest in citrus,
to determine whether cutting the wildflower strips could force spill-over of natural enemies onto the adjacent
crop, enhancing pest regulation services. Three treatments applied to orange orchard alleyways were compared:
i) a control treatment, the standard orchard practice of regular cutting to 5 cm throughout the year, ii) a sown
wildflower treatment managed with cutting once a year in February to a height of 10 cm (standard management
wildflower treatment, SMWT), and iii) the same sown wildflower treatment but managed with two additional
cuts in May and June (active management wildflower treatment, AMWT). Orange tree canopies were sampled for
natural enemies, and pest regulation services were quantified using sentinel prey cards baited with Ephestia
kuehniella eggs. Natural enemy richness was greatest in canopies with SMWT, supporting a greater relative
abundance of primary parasitoids and lower relative abundances of antagonists (ants) compared to the control.
This was associated with enhanced pest regulation services (depletion of sentinel prey from baited cards),
especially during the early summer months, which coincides with a critical period to control A. aurantii and other
key citrus pests. In contrast, AMWT did not enhance natural enemy richness, and pest regulation services were
diminished. This study suggests that leaving wildflower strips uncut throughout the season, as in SMWT, may
help to mitigate pest incidence through enhanced pest regulation services. Further studies are now required to
determine how this would influence populations of target pests.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: Ecological intensification, Ecological infrastructure, Conservation biological control, Habitat management, Natural enemies
Subjects: Q Science > QH Natural history
Q Science > QK Botany
Q Science > QL Zoology
S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General)
S Agriculture > SB Plant culture
Divisions: College of Health, Life and Environmental Sciences > School of Science and the Environment
Related URLs:
Copyright Info: 0167-8809/Crown Copyright © 2024 Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (
Depositing User: Kate Ashbrook
Date Deposited: 15 May 2024 14:46
Last Modified: 15 May 2024 14:46

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