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  • Periodic Reporting for period 1 - FLORALWOOD (Selecting non-crop flowering plants for enhancing natural enemies of crop pests in agro ecosystems under climate change perspective)

FLORALWOOD Report Summary

Project ID: 660593
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.3.2.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - FLORALWOOD (Selecting non-crop flowering plants for enhancing natural enemies of crop pests in agro ecosystems under climate change perspective)

Reporting period: 2016-01-15 to 2018-01-14

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Pest control by chemical means is neither economically nor ecologically sustainable. Conservation of natural enemies in agricultural landscapes and use of natural enemies in glasshouses is considered the most ecologically sustainable method for biological control of agricultural pests. An ecological relevant hypothesis is that higher plant diversity, through addition of plant species able to supply accessible food and/or shelters at different seasons of the year, can increase natural enemies' efficiency. Food (nectar of flowers) could be a limiting factor for natural enemies, especially parasitic wasps, in the field and inside greenhouses, especially when the climatic conditions are harsh, as for example in glasshouses during heat waves.
FLORALWOOD was performed on communities of aphids and their main natural enemies, the parasitic wasps of the genus Aphidius. Aphids are key pests of cereals, vegetables and fruit crops and it has been shown that habitat management may increase food resources for natural enemies of some aphid species. Aphids are responsible for reducing crop yields via direct mechanical damage to crops or viral transmission of plant diseases and represent a major problem in glasshouses. Parasitic wasps are considered the most efficient natural enemies controlling aphid pests. They are excellent models to study the effects of selective floral resources since for many parasitic wasp species the adult diet is restricted to nectar. It is also believed that parasitic wasps will be more thermal resistant if their adults have access to non-crop flowers as food sources.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

Objectives were:
1) To screen potential food plants and identify those that have suitable nectar and/or pollen resources. Results showed that insects fed on Choisya ternata and Satureja hortensis survived almost 4 days; on Alyssum maritimum more than 6 days and on Fagopyrum esculentum and Nepeta cataria ~7.5 days. The species of flowers that present no interest for the parasitic wasps are Calendula officinalis and Kalanchoe blossfeldiana.
There is a current lack of studies addressing the combined effects of climate warming and food sources on herbivorous, their natural enemies and ecosystem services. For these ectotherms insects the ability to remain active under extreme climatic conditions (extremely hot summer temperatures, some greenhouse climate conditions) is a significant key to survival since extreme temperatures may constrain resource availability and influence the phenology. Thus, increasing parasitoid resistance and adaptability to current heat waves during the summer through floral nectar supply could be used to improve Conservation Biological Control.
During the growing season, extremely high temperatures and low humidity conditions, which are becoming more and more common in southern European countries over the summer time, may constrain natural enemy populations. When considering greenhouse crops this could be worse since temperatures reached inside are higher.
2) To determine aphid parasitic wasp thermal tolerance and the effect of feeding on different species of flowers on parasitoid resistance to thermal shocks. We compared parasitic wasps allowed to feed either from F. esculentum (buckwheat) nectar or from water only. Both were submitted to thermal chocks at a temperature of 36.5ºC to evaluate the effect of stressing temperature that have lethal effects (60 minutes of exposure killed 50% of the individuals) and sub-lethal effects (15 minutes of exposure). Results showed that flower fed parasitoids survived statistically longer than unfed parasitoids under all conditions demonstrating that insects fed on a good quality food can better tolerate stressing temperatures. The proportion of insects that suffered a shock (face-up insects moving only legs and antennae) after stressing temperature was also significantly lower for fed insects.
3) To evaluate the attractiveness at distance of selected flowers to parasitic wasps. We used the Y-olfactometer equipment of CEQA Institute to evaluate the attractivity at distance of buckwheat odour cues to parasitic wasps. We examined four constant temperatures 20, 25, 30 and 35°C and three type of choice experiments: Buckwheat flowsers vs Control filtered air, Flower vs Hosts (wheat plant containing aphids) and Control vs Host. The results showed that 35°C was a stressful temperature, at which most insects are not attracted anymore by the flowers and the hosts.
4) To test the selected plants in a greenhouse in order to check previous laboratory results and evaluate how they affect the parasitism rates (the death of the aphids) in real conditions. The interest of adding buckwheat banks was evaluated in a greenhouse testing different spatial distributions under optimal and hot temperatures. Since summer hot temperatures are guaranteed in Mediterranean area of Spain where they can be a serious problem for greenhouse cultivation, this part of the project was realized in Valencia (Spain) during the secondment. We placed 10 pots containing young wheat plants infested with aphids inside 2x2x2m boxes covered with insect-proof net. Each essay included either 2 or 5 pots containing buckwheats in flowering phase. We released inside each box 10 mated females of parasitic wasps. Essays were performed from February to July. Temperature and relative humidity were recorded. After 7 to 12 days, depending on temperature, we randomly took 2 pots and collected all the mummies (dead aphids, parasitized by the wasps) generated. The number of remaining alive aphids was counted. The results sh

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

This project increases the knowledge baseline on the thermal tolerances of aphid parasitoid species, which will provide an indication of the efficacy of these agents in a changing climate. Hot conditions are typically reached in Mediterranean regions over the summer time and specially affect greenhouse plant productions because the stress may cause plant weakness facilitating insect pest attacks however this period remains largely under considered for field experiments. Results showed that it is necessary to develop further researches on the effect of hot summer temperatures on parasitoids since improving pest biocontrol in this period may reduce significantly the peak of pest population reached during autumn. This project adopted an innovative approach to provide a more integrated study of natural enemy efficiency to better inform agricultural and pest management. The lab ECOBIO is developping studies about the impact of flower strips on the ecosystem service of biological control in cereal fields in Brittany, and project's results provide valuable information for present and future research.

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