Defra - Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Science Search

Science and Research Projects

Return to Science Search homepage   Return to Project List

Oilseed rape crop ecology: optimising crop husbandry for conservation biological control and greater biodiversity - AR0316

Description
This project aims to improve our understanding of the ecology of the oilseed rape crop and its associated invertebrate fauna in order to reduce the negative and enhance the positive environmental footprint of the crop within the context of the arable ecosystem. The main objective is to identify and to optimise aspects of winter oilseed rape crop husbandry in the UK that will enhance both the biological control of oilseed rape pests and invertebrate biodiversity within the oilseed rape/winter wheat arable ecosystem. Three husbandry practices have been selected for study: a) soil tillage, b) cultivar choice, and c) timing of insecticides. The project will: 1) compare the effect of pre-drilling and post-harvest soil tillage on key indicator pest, biocontrol and biodiversity invertebrates in order to optimise the survival of beneficial species, 2) investigate the effect of host plant preferences particularly floral characters on crop infestation by inflorescence pests and their attack by parasitoids, 3) determine the phenology of key parasitoid species in relation to that of their target pest species and meteorological records to optimise the timing of insecticide applications and 4) compare the performance of a system with husbandry practices modified to maximise biocontrol and biodiversity with a current ‘best practice’ system of growing winter rape. Information from the project should lead to the development of more sustainable, environmentally-acceptable management strategies for the control of pests with greater reliance on conservation biological control and less reliance on pesticide inputs. Such strategies should also lead to greater biodiversity of the invertebrate fauna on the crop with consequent benefits for bird, plant and other farmland wildlife, which seek food and shelter from the crop. Information on natural enemy phenology is expected to be invaluable for further development of decision support systems for the crop.
Objective
The overall objective is to identify and to optimise aspects of winter oilseed rape crop husbandry in the UK that will enhance both the biological control of oilseed rape pests and invertebrate biodiversity within the oilseed rape/winter wheat arable ecosystem.

Specific scientific objectives are:
1. To compare the effects of pre-drilling and post-harvest soil tillage on key indicator pest, biocontrol and biodiversity invertebrates to optimise the survival of beneficial species.
2. To investigate the effect of host plant preferences particularly floral characters on crop infestation by inflorescence pests and their attack by parasitoids.
3. To determine the phenology of key parasitoid species in relation to that of their target pest species and meteorological records to optimise the timing of insecticide applications.
4. To compare the performance of a system with husbandry practices modified to maximise biocontrol and biodiversity with a current ‘best practice’ system of growing winter rape.
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2004

To: 2008

Cost: £415,000
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Rothamsted Research (BBSRC)
Keywords
Arable Farming              
Biodiversity              
Biological Control              
Climate and Weather              
Climate Change              
Crops              
Farming              
Invertebrates              
Natural Resource Use              
Oilseed Rape              
Sustainable Farming and Food              
Sustainable Production              
Fields of Study
Arable Crops