The ground wētā is an insect pest causing damages in New Zealand vineyards. Scientists Nboyine et al. analyzed plant DNA present in the feces of this insect and revealed that many plants may constitute their staple diet. They reckoned, therefore, that deploying non-commercial trap crops around vineyards, as a decoy to feed on, is particularly appropriate to control wētā, as this insect seems to be highly generalist in its feeding behavior.
The fruit fly Drosophila suzukii threatens worldwide fruit production. Its control relies mainly on the application of synthetic insecticides during the soft fruit ripening period. Scientists Dam et al. reviewed the natural compounds reported effective against D. suzukii. Even though several natural compounds show promising in vitro activity against this pest, knowledge of their effects on non-target organisms and their field-efficiency are often missing, limiting their wide-spread use.
Preserving remnants of the forest in agricultural landscapes supports biodiversity conservation and the provision of agriculturally-relevant ecosystem services such as pollination or biological control. In Brazil, scientists Medeiros et al. recently found that forests in the surrounding landscape reduce the occurrence of a widespread economic pest in sun-coffee monocultures by enhancing natural enemy diversity. Remnants of the forest maintain a permanent reservoir of natural enemies and therefore, these habitats should be protected.
Weeds represent one of the most important pests in agroecosystems. Recently, scientists Scavo et al. found that globe artichoke, cultivated and wild cardoon significantly reduced the number of seeds in the soil thanks to their allelopathic activity. They also observed a positive effect on some bacteria involved in the soil N-cycle. The introduction of these species in Mediterranean crop rotations could hence decrease the utilization of synthetic herbicides.
Inter-cropping non-Bt-maize with legume crops increases the role of predatory arthropods in naturally regulating herbivorous arthropod pests. Scientists Nickson Otieno et al. recently observed stronger predator-herbivore interactions within maize intercropped than in monoculture fields, both in organic and conventional farming systems. The results are useful in prescribing field practices for sustainable small-scale agriculture from sub-Saharan Africa.
Smallholder farmers in low-income countries often use plant extracts (‘botanicals’) to prepare homemade pesticides. This practice has remained controversial due to a perceived lack of evidence that such home remedies are effective and safe. Scientists Dougoud et al. reviewed commonly used botanicals and found evidence that they can reduce pests and crop damage. However, results are highly variable, depending on how the homemade pesticides are prepared and used.
Xanthomonas wilt is a devastating disease causing great yield losses to banana producers. Scientists Uwamahoro et al. identified several factors influencing disease occurrence in Rwanda: agro-ecological locations, farming practices, farmers’ knowledge, application of disease management strategies, and information distribution channels. The understanding of such factors will facilitate the development of sustainable methods to manage Xanthomonas wilt.
Enhancing natural enemies to control pests in apple orchards is an alternative to using pesticides. Scientists Salliou et al. compared what the stakeholders perceive to be the impact of different strategies developed to enhance natural enemies. They identified greater expectation from biological control with habitat management within orchards than from engineering the surrounding landscape.
Weeds represent an important obstacle to wheat production, particularly in low-input and organic systems. Scientists Lazzaro et al. combined genetic with agroecological approaches to study weed competition related traits in wheat. They show the high potential of interdisciplinary research for selecting more competitive wheat cultivars as valid support to sustainable integrated weed management.
Worldwide crop production sustainability is threatened by weed resistance to herbicides. Scientists Mascanzoni et al. demonstrated in Italy that a high risk of resistance evolution is associated with traditional rice cultivation systems opting for monoculture, water-seeding, and less diversified herbicide strategies. They showed that dry seeding and crop rotation rate are negatively correlated with resistance occurrence.