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ARS Home » Plains Area » Sidney, Montana » Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory » Pest Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #333538

Research Project: Ecology and Management of Grasshoppers and Other Rangeland and Crop Insects in the Great Plains

Location: Pest Management Research

Title: Using matrix population models to inform biological control management of the wheat stem sawfly, Cephus cinctus

Author
item Rand, Tatyana
item Richmond, Courtney - Rowan University
item Dougherty, Ed - Williams College

Submitted to: Biological Control
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/7/2017
Publication Date: 3/10/2017
Publication URL: https://handle.nal.usda.gov/10113/5646924
Citation: Rand, T.A., Richmond, C.E., Dougherty, E. 2017. Using matrix population models to inform biological control management of the wheat stem sawfly, Cephus cinctus. Biological Control. 109:27-36. doi:10.1016/j.biocontrol.2017.03.007.

Interpretive Summary: Mathematica models are a powerful means of identifying vulnerable life stages of pest species and assessing the potential effectiveness of various management approaches in reducing pest numbers and spread. In a biological control context, such models can be used to focus foreign exploration or conservation efforts on enemies that attack life stages identified to have the greatest impact, and determine target levels of predation or parasitism that would be necessary to suppress pest numbers. In this study, we constructed a matrix population model to assess the potential effectiveness of biological controls against the wheat stem sawfly, a major pest of wheat in North America. We used the model to identify the stage at which parasitoid attack would have the largest impact on sawflies and calculate how many sawflies need to be killed by parastioids to keep sawflies from increasing in numbers. Our model indicates sawfly populations are generally growing, and are predicted to triple in a year in the absence of added control measures. The model identified the witner larval stage (when sawflies are in stubs in the wheat stubble) as the weakest link in the pest life-cycle, reflecting the fact that this stage is longer than the summer larval stage (45 versus 5 weeks). Parasitism levels by native Bracon spp. parasitoids necessary to keep sawfly numbers from increasing from one year to the next, was similar for summer and overwintering stages (69% and 68% respectively). These target levels far exceeded those typically observed in the field, and studies on parasitoids conservation done to date suggest that single actions do not bolster parasitism enough to reach target thresholds. Thus multiple conservation measures (e.g. reduced tillage, increased cutting height and the provisioning of flowering plants as sugar resources) will likely need to be complemented by other management approaches (e.g., host plant resistance), to suppress sawfly numbers. Our results reinforce previous work demonstrating the usefulness of models for evaluating the potential efficacy of biological control agents, and further illustrate how they can be used to evaluate, and set targets for, conservation management approaches using specific natural enemies.

Technical Abstract: Demographic models are a powerful means of identifying vulnerable life stages of pest species and assessing the potential effectiveness of various management approaches in reducing pest population growth and spread. In a biological control context, such models can be used to focus foreign exploration or conservation efforts on enemies that attack life stages identified to have the greatest impact, and determine target levels of predation or parasitism that would be necessary to suppress population growth. In this study, we constructed a matrix population model to assess the potential effectiveness of biological controls against the wheat stem sawfly, Cephus cinctus, a major pest of wheat in North America. We calculated the sensitivity of C. cinctus population growth to changes in stage-specific survivorship, to identify the stage at which parasitoid attack would have the largest impact on sawfly population growth. We calculated the stage-specific rate of mortality needed to reduce C. cinctus population growth rate to zero, to set targets for conservation biological control approaches. Our model indicates that C. cinctus populations are growing (' = 1.022), and are predicted to triple in a year in the absence of added control measures. The winter larval stage had the highest elasticities, suggesting this stage is the weakest link in the pest life-cycle, in part reflecting the much longer average duration of the winter compared with the summer larval stage (45 versus 5 weeks). Parasitism levels by native Bracon spp. parasitoids necessary to suppress C. cinctus population growth was similar for summer and overwintering stages (69% and 68% respectively). These target parasitism levels far exceeded those typically observed in the field, and conservation measures employed to date suggest that single actions do not bolster parasitism to target thresholds. Thus multiple conservation measures (e.g. reduced tillage, increased cutting height and the provisioning of floral resources) will likely need to be complemented by other management approaches (e.g., host plant resistance), to suppress C. cinctus populations. Our results reinforce previous work demonstrating the utility of matrix models for evaluating the potential efficacy of biological control agents, and further illustrates how they can be used to evaluate, and set targets for, conservation management approaches using specific natural enemies.