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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

The importance of shrubland and local agroecological practices for pumpkin production in sub-Saharan smallholdings

Vogel, Cassandra; Mkandawire, Tapiwa; Mkandawire, Mwapi; Kuestner, Georg; Dakishoni, Laifolo; Kerr, Rachel Bezner; Iverson, Aaron; Poveda, Katja; Steffan-Dewenter, Ingolf


Land-use and local field management affect pollinators, pest damage and ultimately crop yields. Agroecology is implemented as a sustainable alternative to conventional agricultural practices, but little is known about its potential for pollination and pest management. Sub-Saharan Africa is underrepresented in studies investigating the relative importance of pests and pollinators for crop productivity and how this might be influenced by surrounding landscapes or agroecological practices. In Malawi, we selected 24 smallholder farms differing in landscape-scale shrubland cover, implementation of manual pest removal as an indicator of an agroecological pest management practice, and the number of agroecological soil practices employed at the household level, such as mulching, intercropping and soil conservation tillage. We established pumpkin plots and assessed the abundance and richness of flower visitors and damage of flowers (florivory) caused by pest herbivores on flowers. Using a full-factorial hand pollination and exclusion experiment on each plot, we investigated the relative contribution of pollination and florivory to pumpkin yield. Increasing shrubland cover decreased honeybee abundance but increased the abundance and richness of non-honeybee visitors. Manual removal of herbivores considered to be pests reduced flower visitors, whereas more agroecological soil management practices increased flower visitors. Neither shrubland cover nor agroecological management affected florivory. Pollinator limitation, but not florivory, constrained pumpkin fruit set, and increasing visitor richness decreased the relative differences between hand-and animal-pollinated flowers. We recommend improved protection of shrubland habitats and increasing agroecological soil practices to promote pollinator richness on smallholder farms.


agroecology; florivory; flower herbivory; pest management; pollination; pollinator limitation; pumpkin fruit set; smallholder agroecosystems; soil management; tropical agriculture

Published in

Basic and Applied Ecology
2023, Volume: 73, pages: 51-61

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    SLU Plant Protection Network

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