Effects of pesticides and fertilizer on invertebrate populations of grass and wheat plots in Kent in relation to productivity and yield


Dr D. S. Madge, Department of Biological Sciences, Wye College, Ashford, Kent U.K. TN25 5AH.


At a site in Kent, perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) variety S24 and Italian ryegrass (L. multiflorum) variety RVP, wheat varieties Armada and Norman, and the original mixed grass ley were grown in small plots during 1982–84. Two toxic pesticides (phorate and aldicarb) were applied to half the total number of plots three times each year to eliminate soil invertebrate populations. Fertilizer was also applied to most plots. The yields of the crops, grown with and without pesticide, and the effects of the fertilizer were compared. Grass herbage yield was measured on three occasions during the summers of 1983 and 1984. Wheat grain yields were also determined in 1983.

During the first year significant differences were not apparent in grass dry matter yield between pesticide-treated and non-treated plots, but significant differences were found in the second year. The perennial ryegrass was more susceptible to pest damage than the Italian ryegrass or the grass ley. Grass yields varied between cuts and in relation to variety and pesticide treatment, yields tending to be greater in untreated plots. Fertilizer treatment greatly increased grass dry matter yields, particularly with the Italian ryegrass. The effects of pesticide treatment on both wheat varieties varied although some yield enhancement was evident.

Invertebrate animal populations in pesticide and fertilizer-treated plots were also assessed in autumn 1982, spring and autumn 1983 and spring 1984. In contrast to pesticide treatment, fertilizer treatment had little effect on soil invertebrate populations. Nematode populations were reduced at each sampling occasion by the pesticide treatment. Slug populations were initially unaffected but were subsequently reduced. Leatherjackets, by far the most abundant pest in both grass and wheat plots, were markedly affected by pesticides on all sampling occasions. Generally, fewer soil-dwelling dipterous larvae were recovered in spring than in autumn. Stem-boring dipterous larvae were virtually absent.