Environmentally friendly landscape management improves oilseed rape yields by increasing pollinators and reducing pests.

Published online
24 Jul 2022
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Perrot, T. & Bretagnolle, V. & Gaba, S.
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Pollination and pest control are two major ecological functions sustaining crop yield. In insect-pollinated crops, previous studies have revealed that an increase in resources and habitats in landscapes can increase pest control by natural enemies as well as insect pollination by pollinators. However, data have been lacking that simultaneously considers the effects of landscape on both pollinators and pests, and the direct and indirect effects on yields of farming practices interacting with landscape, bees and pests. This study aimed to fill this gap by focusing on oilseed rape (OSR), an insect-pollinated crop of high economic value. We first quantified the effects of landscape and farming practices on both bee and pest abundance caught in OSR blooming season in 124 farmed fields over a 6-year study (~20 fields sampled per year), and then used structural equation modelling to assess the direct and indirect links between bees, pests, farming practices and landscape on yield. The results showed that landscape had a stronger effect on bee and pest abundance than agrochemical farming practices. Bees and pests decreased with the amount of OSR in the landscape surrounding the focal field, and showed contrasted effects with the amount of meadow and organic farming: positive for bees and negative for pests. Bee abundance also increased with the amount of sunflower in the landscape the preceding year, and decreased with increasing field size. While agrochemicals surprisingly had barely any effect on bees and pests, their use improved OSR yield, although at a similar magnitude as bee and pest abundances. Synthesis and application. This study, conducted in commercial crop fields, underlines the important contribution of sustainable landscape management for enhancing OSR yield. Despite agrochemicals' ability to improve or maintain OSR yields, their unconditional use is unsustainable due to negative externalities. Therefore, alternative options such as those highlighted in our study-such as reducing field size, increasing the amount of organic farming in the landscape, or sowing OSR in landscapes rich in sunflowers the preceding year - appear to be relevant tools to promote ecosystem services, maintain yield and conserve biodiversity. These findings support the potential of nature-based solutions to foster more sustainable agriculture.

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