BACKGROUND: Whether tactics to manipulate natural enemies in agro-ecosystems enhance their ecosystem function and services remains debatable. We conducted field experiments in 2015–2016 to test the hypothesis that attraction of natural enemies to herbivore-induced plant volatiles (HIPVs), alone or in combination with companion plants, increases crop productivity. Our treatments consisted of bean plants alone or baited with methyl salicylate (MeSA; an HIPV), or combined with coriander (a companion plant), or with both MeSA and coriander. Numbers of arthropods were visually sampled in each treatment. Sentinel aphids were used to measure ecosystem function (i.e. predation). Plant damage and biomass, and the number and weight of pods and seeds, were measured as a proxy for ecosystem services. RESULTS: MeSA and coriander, when alone or combined, increased the abundance of insect predators from six families, reduced herbivore (e.g. spider mite and thrips) populations, and increased aphid predation. MeSA and coriander also reduced damage by spider mites. MeSA with or without coriander did not, however, increase crop biomass or any yield parameters. CONCLUSIONS: MeSA alone or combined with coriander attracted different predator communities, altered pest communities, and reduced damage; however, these results did not cascade down to improve crop productivity.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Agronomy and Crop Science
- Insect Science
- conservation biological control
- herbivore-induced plant volatiles
- methyl salicylate