Tailored flower strips promote natural enemy biodiversity and pest control in potato crops.
Sown flower strips are increasingly implemented within agri-environment schemes (AES) to increase functional biodiversity and ecosystem services such as pollination or natural pest control, but their effectiveness in achieving these goals remains poorly studied. We tested the performance of experimentally sown annual flower strips specifically designed to promote natural enemies of aphids and their pest control services (tailored flower strips) in adjacent potato crops (n=8) compared with control fields (n=10). Flower strips consisted of 11 plant species providing abundant floral and extra-floral resources. The abundance of key natural enemies of aphids (hoverflies, lacewings and ladybirds) and hoverfly species richness was greatly enhanced in tailored flower strips compared with potato control strips. This resulted in an average increase in the number of eggs deposited by hoverflies and lacewings by 127% and 48%, respectively, and a reduction in the number of aphids by 75% in adjacent potato crops. Synthesis and applications. We conclude that tailored flower strips can be an effective agri-environmental measure to enhance natural enemies and aphid control in nearby crops. Indeed, tailored flower strips may help to reduce insecticide input in potato production as they significantly decrease the probability that action thresholds are reached. Promoting natural enemy abundance and diversity, as observed for hoverflies, may increase the stability of pest control and provide additional benefits to agro-ecosystems in terms of natural enemy conservation. We thus recommend establishing tailored flower strips as a promising management option to reconcile the objectives of ecological intensification and biodiversity conservation.