Science Into Practice - Using flowers to boost brassica pest control

The industry is currently under pressure to take a more rational approach to the use of pesticides while still maintaining pest populations below the thresholds at which economic damage occurs.

The use of natural predators in crops is usually limited by the absence of supplementary food sources for them, such as pollen and nectar. Introducing flowering plants as part of a combined cropping system could enhance natural pest control.

HDC PhD student Georgina Key of Lancaster University looked at the potential for using flowering crops that have a marketable use to harness biodiversity benefits for sustainable pest control. This would allow growers to increase natural pest control without compromising on crop acreage.

The flowering crops tested as part of the project ranged from pharmaceutical flowering plant species to nectar-producing vegetable crops.

The results to date have shown that plantings of buckwheat, feverfew, broad bean and borage can attract a range of natural biological control agents and enhance the numbers of predators, such as hoverfly larvae, in adjacent brassica crops.

Field trials in 2011 assessed the effectiveness of these flowering species in controlling pests on a field scale.

Dates for your diary

22 February: Getting the Most Out of "Pro Cost", London.

29 February: Optimising Pest and Disease Control, Nocton, Lincolnshire.

1 March: HDC Pepper Workshop, Harlow, Essex.

Horticultural Development Company

For details on all HDC activity, visit www.hdc.org.uk


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