Managing Floral Resources in Apple Orchards for Pest Control: Ideas, Experiences and Future Directions
Functional biodiversity is of fundamental importance for pest control. Many natural enemies rely on floral resources to complete their life cycle. Farmers need to ensure the availability of suitable and sufficient floral biodiversity. This review summarizes 66 studies on the management of floral biodiversity in apple orchards, published since 1986. Approaches followed different degrees of intervention: short-term practices (mowing regime and weed maintenance, cover crops), establishment of durable ecological infrastructures (perennial flower strips, hedgerows) and re-design of the crop system (intercropping, agroforestry). Although short-term practices did not always target the nutrition of natural enemies by flowering plants, living conditions for them (alternative prey, provision of habitat) were often improved. Perennial flower strips reliably enhanced natural enemies and techniques for their introduction continuously developed. Resident natural enemies and their impact in pest control reacted positively to the introduction of a more diversified vegetation, whereas the response of very mobile organisms was often not directly linked to the measures taken. A careful selection and management of plants with particular traits exploitable by most natural enemies emerged as a key-point for success. Now the elaborated design of such measures needs to be adopted by stakeholders and policy makers to encourage farmers to implement these measures in their orchards.