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We might not notice them, but the crops farmers grow are protected by scores of tiny invertebrate bodyguards. Naturally occurring arthropods like spiders and lady beetles patrol crop fields looking for insects to eat. These natural enemies keep pests under control, making it easier to grow the crops we depend on.
New research from Michigan State University by Nate Haan, Yajun Zhang and Doug Landis sheds light on how these natural enemies respond to large-scale spatial patterns in agricultural landscapes. These areas are made up of crop fields, forests and grasslands. It turns out their configuration, or spatial arrangement, can go a long way in determining how many natural enemies show up in a field to eat pests.
Review - Article - Research - Online - Research
A new review article published in Research not yet available online summarizes recent research into ways landscape configuration affects natural enemies and pest suppression.
"One of the take-homes from our review is that natural enemies can be more abundant when agricultural landscapes are made up of smaller farm fields," said Haan, MSU postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Entomology and one of the study's authors. "Some natural enemies need resources found in other habitats or in crop field edges. We think when habitat patches are small, they are more likely to find their way back and forth between these habitats and crop fields, or from one crop field into another."
Haan - Effects - Landscape - Configuration - Depend
Haan emphasizes that the exact effects of landscape configuration depend on the natural history of the critter in question.
"A predator that...
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