Positive effects of wheat variety mixtures on aboveground arthropods are weak and variable

Abstract : Although modern agriculture generally relies on homogeneous varieties that are usually grown in pure stands, crop variety mixtures have been used for a long time, notably to improve resistance to fungal diseases. A growing number of studies suggest that intraspecific plant diversity may also enhance the abundance and diversity of wild species and thereby some ecosystem services such as biological control by natural predators. However, positive effects of the genetic diversity of plant species on the diversity of associated communities have mostly been documented in natural systems, with only a handful of studies targeting crop species in agroecosystems. Here, we investigated the ecological effects of the number of winter wheat varieties (Triticum aestivum) on aboveground arthropods and particularly predatory species. We manipulated the number of wheat varieties (1, 2,4 or 8) in 120 plots (80 m(2) each) to examine how wheat diversity and stand characteristics impact communities of three dominant aboveground arthropod groups that include many predatory species: ground beetles, rove beetles and spiders. The number of wheat varieties had a weak, but positive effect on predator abundance, notably spider abundance. In contrast, wheat functional diversity, as assessed by the number of wheat functional groups, was only negatively related to the diversity of spiders. Among wheat stand characteristics, the variance in plant height, wheat biomass and the Green Area Index were weakly correlated with ground beetle, rove beetle and predatory diversity, respectively. The Green Area Index was also weakly correlated with ground beetle abundance. Our study suggests that wheat variety mixtures have variable and limited effects on aboveground arthropods and probably low effectiveness to enhance biological control, but these results should be further tested under low-input agriculture in real fields
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Florence Dubs, Alan Vergnes, Emilie Mirlicourtois, Isabelle Le Viol, Christian Kerbiriou, et al.. Positive effects of wheat variety mixtures on aboveground arthropods are weak and variable. Basic and Applied Ecology, Elsevier, 2018, 33, pp.66-78. ⟨10.1016/j.baae.2018.07.008⟩. ⟨mnhn-02265503⟩

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