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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Combining organic fertilisation and perennial crops in the rotation enhances arthropod communities

Heinen, Janina; Smith, Monique E.; Taylor, Astrid; Bommarco, Riccardo


Single and combined diversification practices in crop fields and their effects on arthropod predators, decomposers and herbivores have mainly been assessed in small plot and cage experiments. In particular, effects of diversification on arthropod predators and their food resources, such as soil fauna, weed seeds and herbivorous prey in entire crop fields across the growing season, remain unclear. We explored how organic fertilisers, with or without the legacy of perennial ley in the crop rotation, and mineral fertiliser without the legacy of perennial ley, affected below- and aboveground communities in 19 spring cereal crop fields. In each field, we determined the abundance of the soil mesofauna, communities of arthropod prey aboveground and of the predator guilds carabids, staphylinids and spiders. We sampled at three crop stages: tillering, heading and ripening. Weed cover and soil characteristics, such as carbon and nitrogen content, were assessed. For most soil mesofauna groups, the combination of organic fertiliser with the legacy of ley gave highest, organic fertiliser with annual crop rotations intermediate, and mineral fertiliser with annual crop rotations the lowest total abundance. Aboveground arthropod prey abundances were similar across treatments. The legacy of ley increased richness of all aboveground arthropod predators. Staphylinid communities' abundance increased additively as diversification treatments were combined during tillering of the crop. Increasing organic amendments, alongside the reduced disturbances through inclusion of perennial ley in the rotation, led to more abundant communities below- and aboveground as well as more richness in aboveground predator communities.


Diversification; Beneficial arthropods; Crop production; Ecosystem services; Above; and belowground linkages; Perennial ley

Published in

Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
2023, Volume: 349, article number: 108461
Publisher: ELSEVIER