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Interactive effects of pests increase seed yield

Abstract : Loss in seed yield and therefore decrease in plant fitness due to simultaneous attacks by multiple herbivores is not necessarily additive, as demonstrated in evolutionary studies on wild plants. However, it is not clear how this transfers to crop plants that grow in very different conditions compared to wild plants. Nevertheless, loss in crop seed yield caused by any single pest is most often studied in isolation although crop plants are attacked by many pests that can cause substantial yield losses. This is especially important for crops able to compensate and even overcompensate for the damage. We investigated the interactive impacts on crop yield of four insect pests attacking different plant parts at different times during the cropping season. In 15 oilseed rape fields in Sweden, we estimated the damage caused by seed and stem weevils, pollen beetles, and pod midges. Pest pressure varied drastically among fields with very low correlation among pests, allowing us to explore interactive impacts on yield from attacks by multiple species. The plant damage caused by each pest species individually had, as expected, either no, or a negative impact on seed yield and the strongest negative effect was caused by pollen beetles. However, seed yield increased when plant damage caused by both seed and stem weevils was high, presumably due to the joint plant compensatory reaction to insect attack leading to overcompensation. Hence, attacks by several pests can change the impact on yield of individual pest species. Economic thresholds based on single species, on which pest management decisions currently rely, may therefore result in economically suboptimal choices being made and unnecessary excessive use of insecticides.
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Vesna Gagic, Laura G.A. Riggi, Barbara Ekbom, Gerard Malsher, Adrien Rusch, et al.. Interactive effects of pests increase seed yield. Ecology and Evolution, Wiley Open Access, 2016, 6 (7), pp.2149-2157. ⟨10.1002/ece3.2003⟩. ⟨hal-02633128⟩

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