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ARS Home » Plains Area » Brookings, South Dakota » Integrated Cropping Systems Research » Research » Research Project #443351

Research Project: Enhancing Insect Ecosystem Services that Benefit Modern Cropping Systems

Location: Integrated Cropping Systems Research

Project Number: 3080-21220-008-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Oct 26, 2022
End Date: Oct 25, 2027

Objective 1: Conduct research to develop fundamental and applied knowledge of predacious lady beetles, ants, and bees within cropping systems. Subobjective 1.A: Establish a baseline inventory of bee species and determine patterns in their distribution among crops at the ESDSWRF. Subobjective 1.B: Determine favorable alternative habitats for native species of agrobiont lady beetles. Objective 2: Conduct research to determine the impact of cover crops, crop rotations, and tillage on ground-dwelling predators and bees and their ecosystem services, such as predation and pollination. Subobjective 2.A: Evaluate how spring tillage compared to no-tillage production practices in corn and soybean affect beneficial ant and ground beetle activity, diversity, and predation of sentinel pest insects. Subobjective 2.B: Evaluate how cover crops interact with pollinators to improve yield of sunflowers in crop rotations. Objective 3: Conduct research to quantify exposures and responses of non-target arthropods, such as bumble bees, to environmental conditions and pesticides in agricultural systems. Subobjective 3.A: Determine concentrations of agricultural pesticides in a single species of native pollinator over the course of a growing season. Objective 4: Conduct research to improve understanding of the direct and indirect interactions among plants and soil invertebrates, such as entomopathogenic nematodes and ground beetles, in relation to soil health and pest management. Subobjective 4.A: Identify endemic EPN from corn-soybean rotated fields with and without tillage and assess their efficacy against WCR larvae. Sub-objective 4.B: Evaluate EPN efficacy against soil-dwelling arthropod species in greenhouse and laboratory trials.

Agriculture faces a challenge to intensify production in ways that are both agronomically and environmentally sustainable. As such, it will need to rely increasingly on a variety of invertebrate-mediated ecosystem services (IMES) such as biological pest control and pollination. However, knowledge gaps persist about the composition of beneficial invertebrate guilds in agroecosystems, what limits their value, and how various cropping practices impact their functionality. In response, this project will address these knowledge gaps with research to generate fundamental and applied knowledge about bees, lady beetles, ground beetles, ants, and entomopathogenic nematodes (EPN). Specifically, we will inventory bees, determine their distribution patterns among crops, and quantify their exposures to agricultural pesticides. We will determine alternative habitats to corn and soybean that support native species of agrobiont lady beetles. Studies will also inventory ground beetles in corn and soybean and evaluate how tillage practices impact ground beetles and beneficial ants. Additional studies will identify EPN endemic to crop fields and evaluate their infectivity against soil-dwelling pests. The research will have an array of positive impacts. For instance, it will facilitate the generation of hypotheses about factors driving bee diversity and will, along with improved pesticide exposure assessments for native bees, aid in developing conservation strategies. Determining what alternative habitats favor lady beetles will help to ensure these predators of crop pests are conserved in agricultural landscapes. An improved understanding of how ants and ground beetles respond to cropping practices will lead to recommendations that more effectively support their suppression of agricultural pests. Identification and characterization of locally adapted, efficacious EPN will provide producers with a long-term, non-chemical management strategy to suppress subterranean pest populations. Ultimately, the research will enhance the potential of ecosystem services from bees, lady beetles, ants, ground beetles, and EPN to increase agricultural sustainability.