Assessment of farming systems and cover configuration options that enhance natural regulation of herbivorous arthropod abundance in maize-fields

Otieno, Nickson Erick (2018-12)

Thesis (PhDConsEcol)--Stellenbosch University, 2018.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Maize, Zea mais, is grown globally and is a leading staple crop in sub-Saharan Africa, where it crucially sustains many household economic and nutritional needs, and the continent’s food security. However, its production is curtailed by damage from a range of herbivorous arthropods, undermining its potential to fulfil increasing demand from a growing population. In Kenya, maize is produced primarily by small-scale subsistence farmers who have limited economic capacity for commercially-based arthropod herbivore control. Whereas the scale of future crop arthropod damage is projected to increase due to global warming, low economies of operational scale undermine many farmers’ ability to increase their response investment to forestall anticipated crop losses. This calls for measures for crop-field arthropod control that are affordable yet affective for sustainable maize production. I investigated a range of agronomic management practices that may be applied in fostering natural suppression of arthropod herbivore abundance across 16 non-Bt maize-fields in western Kenya. I assessed how structural configurations and cover elements including hedgerows, on-farm trees, crop-cover patterns, woodlots and maize cover proportion enhance farm-level habitat complexity to attract predatory arthropods and insectivorous birds for top-down suppression of herbivorous arthropods. I compared effects of these variables on abundance, richness and diversities of arthropod and birds species between organic and conventional farming systems and between monocultured maize versus maize inter-cropped with legume crops. To assess potential for herbivorous arthropod reduction rates, I analysed δ13C and δ 15N stable isotope signatures to track maize carbon through herbivorous arthropods to arthropod predators, and also established a bird exclusion experiment to test insectivorous birds’ contribution to reducing arthropod abundance. By grouping farms into structural clusters, I further tested how arthropod and bird assemblage turnovers differed between local farm-level and wider spatial scales and along a heterogeneity gradient. Organic rather than conventional farming was more supportive of local-scale arthropod abundance, together with inter-copping, but not at wider spatial levels. However, organic farming was less important than crop diversity in boosting insectivorous bird abundance and richness. Herbivorous arthropods were significantly attracted to fields with higher maize cover proportions especially on conventional farms, suggesting susceptibility of monocultured maize to proliferous arthropod herbivory. Higher hedgerow volume, tree densities and larger woodlots enhanced all arthropod guild and bird aggregations at both spatial scales. Although the bird exclusion experiment proved insectivorous birds’ linkage to herbivorous arthropod suppression at local-farm level, this effect was not evident at wider spatial scales. Stable isotope analyses revealed a stronger predator-herbivore trophic linkage under inter-cropping systems, with lepidopteran herbivores the most significant consumers of both maize and legumes. On the other hand, ants showed the best capacity to suppress maize-consuming arthropods while wasps and beetles would best reduce legume consumers. The findings demonstrate that there is a wide range of farm-level habitat management practices for enhancing habitat complexity to boost natural top-down herbivore suppression across maize-fields, but greater effectiveness is achievable through synergistic application of measures rather than individualistic approaches. Furthermore, a multi-spatial scale strategy in applying appropriate techniques would maximize landscape resilience against herbivorous arthropods.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Mielies, Zea mais, word wêreldwyd gekweek en is 'n belangrike stapelvoedsel gewas in subSahara Afrika, waar dit baie huishoudelike ekonomiese en voedingswaarde behoeftes onderhou, en die vasteland se voedselsekerheid. Produksie word egter belemmer deur skade van 'n verskeidenheid van herbivoriese arthropoda, wat die gewas se potensiaal om die toenemende aanvraag van 'n groeiende bevolking ondermyn. In Kenia word mielies hoofsaaklik geproduseer deur klein-skaalse bestaansboere wat beperkte ekonomiese kapasiteit het vir kommersieelgebaseerde beheer van herbivoriese arthropoda. Terwyl toekomstige arthropod skade aan gewasse voorspel word om te vererger as gevolg van aardverwarming, sal lae ekonomieë van operasionele skaal baie boere se vermoë om hul beleggings verminder in arthropoda-beheer om verwagte verliese verhoog te kortwiek. Dit vra vir alternatiewe oplossings vir gewas-veld arthropoda bestuur wat effektief en bekostigbaar is vir volhoubare mielieproduksie. Ek het 'n reeks van agronomiese bestuur praktyke ondersoek wat toegepas kan word vir die bevordering van natuurlike onderdrukking van herbivoriese arthropoda in 16 nie-Bt mielie-velde in Wes-Kenia. Ek het beoordeel hoe strukturele konfigurasies en dekking elemente insluitend kantheinings, plaasbome, gewas-bedekking patrone, brandhoutpersele en mielies bedek-verhouding plaasvlak habitat kompleksiteit verbeter deur predatoriese artropoda insekvretende voëls te lok vir top-af onderdrukking van herbivoriese artropoda. Ek het die effekte van hierdie veranderlikes ondersoek op oorvloed, rykdom en diversiteit van arthropod en voëls spesies tussen organiese en konvensionele boerdery stelsels en tussen enkelgewas mielies teenoor mielies gegroei tussen gewasse. Om potensiaal vir herbivoriese arthropoda verminderingstempos te assesseer, het ek δ 13C en δ 15N stabiele isotoop waardes ontleed om mielie koolstof deur herbivoriese arthropoda tot arthropoda predatore te volg, en het ook 'n voël-uitsluitings eksperiment daar gestel om te toets insekvretende voëls se bydrae tot die vermindering van arthropoda oorvloed te bepaal. Deur plase in strukturele groepe te plaas, ek verder getoets hoe arthropoda en voël aggregasies verskil tussen plaasvlak en breër ruimtelike skale langs ʼn gradient van heterogeniteit. Organiese eerder as konvensionele boerdery was meer ondersteunend van plaaslike-skaal arthropod oorvloed, tesame met wisselbou, maar nie by breër ruimtelike vlakke nie. Organiese boerdery was egter minder belangrik as gewas diversiteit in die bevordering van insectivorous voël oorvloed en rykdom. Herbivoriese arthropoda was aansienlik aangetrokke tot velde met hoër mielie bedekkings proporsies, veral op konvensionele plase, wat dui op vatbaarheid van enkelgewas mielies teen hoë arthropoda herbivorie. Hoër kantheinings volume, boomdigthede en groter brandhoutpersele versterkte alle arthropod gilde en voël aggregasies by beide ruimtelike skale. Hoewel die voël-uitsluiting eksperiment bewys dat insekvretende voëls gekoppel kan word aan herbivoriese arthropod onderdrukking op plaaslike vlak, was hierdie effek was nie duidelik by breër ruimtelike skale nie. Stabiele isotoop analise het 'n sterker predator-herbivoor trofiese koppeling geopenbaar onder inter-gewas stelsels, met sprinkaanagtige herbivore die mees beduidende verbruikers van beide mielies en peulgewasse. Aan die ander kant het miere die beste kapasiteit gewys om te onderdruk mielie-vretende arthropoda te onderdruk terwyl wespes en kewers sal beste peulgewas verbruikers verminder. Die bevindings toon dat daar 'n wye verskeidenheid van plaasvlak habitat bestuur praktyke vir die verbetering van habitat kompleksiteit om natuurlike top-af herbivoor onderdrukking op mielie-velde ʼn hupstoot te gee, maar groter doeltreffendheid is haalbaar deur sinergistiese toepassing van maatreëls eerder as individualistiese benaderings. Verder, 'n multi ruimtelike skaal strategie om toepaslike tegnieke toe te pas, sal landskap elestisiteit teen herbivorous grondgeleedpotige diere maksimaliseer.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/105240
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