Reconstructing prairie vegetation in row crop-dominated agricultural landscapes may contribute to several ecosystem services, including the biological control of insect pests, such as the soybean aphid Aphis glycines Matsumura. The influence of the amount and configuration of reconstructed prairie vegetation on the delivery of ecosystem services was investigated in several small catchments at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa. Treatments include catchments entirely in row crops under a no-till, corn—soybean (Zea maysL.—Glycine max [L.] Merrill) rotation, catchments with 10% of the land in prairie located at the base, and catchments with 10 or 20% of the land in multiple contour strips of prairie. During 2009 and 2011 growing seasons, we measured abundance and diversity of aphidophagous insect predators in response to treatment and habitat type (i.e., soybean, prairie). In 2011, we further studied the biological control of soybean aphids by artificially infesting uncaged and caged plants to prevent exposure from predators. While aphidophagous predators were more abundant in prairie, populations of key aphid predators did not significantly differ among treatments. Biological control of the soybean aphid did not differ among treatments or with distance from prairie. Our results suggest that prairie strips, in addition to providing soil and water quality benefits, may increase the populations of beneficial insects, but may not directly impact biocontrol. We propose several hypotheses to explain why we did not observe more soybean aphid predation with the increased abundance of aphidophagous predators in catchments containing prairie.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/matthew_helmers/97/