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Soil tillage reduces arthropod biodiversity and has lag effects within organic and conventional crop rotations

Patterson, Eli S. P., Sanderson, Roy A., Eyre, Michael D.
Journal of applied entomology 2019 v.143 no.4 pp. 430-440
agroecosystems, arthropod communities, beneficial arthropods, biodiversity, community structure, crop rotation, crops, farms, herbivores, no-tillage, parasitoids, pollinators, predators, taxonomy
Crop rotation systems in organic and conventional farming systems differ in crop types, management and duration. However, changes in arthropod communities over the entire rotation system are poorly understood, as many studies have surveyed only single years or have not covered the entire rotation period. Here, we describe changes in arthropods in two contrasting systems at a split organic‐conventional farm: an 8‐year organically managed rotation with five crops and a 5‐year conventionally managed rotation with three crops. Arthropods were classified into three functional groups, representing epigeal predators, foliar predators/parasitoids and herbivores/pollinators. Epigeal predators were particularly reduced by soil tillage which occurred annually in the conventional rotation, but was intermittent in the organic. Arthropods were most abundant on the conventional rotation, but most taxonomically diverse on the organic. In the conventional system, all functional groups showed a cyclical change in their taxonomic composition that closely matched the crop rotation sequence, whereas in the organic rotation, the cycle was less clear. Whilst the current year's crop type was the major determinant of arthropod community composition, there was a significant “lag effect” for many taxa from the preceding year's crop. Our results suggest that both the amounts of soil tillage (e.g., in no‐till systems) and crop rotation order have major impacts on arthropods in agroecosystems. Rotations with excessive soil tillage are likely to reduce the abundance of some groups of beneficial arthropods, especially epigeal predators.