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GCB Bioenergy

Cover image for Vol. 8 Issue 1

Edited By: Steve Long

Impact Factor: 4.882

ISI Journal Citation Reports © Ranking: 2014: 1/81 (Agronomy); 11/89 (Energy & Fuels)

Online ISSN: 1757-1707

Associated Title(s): Global Change Biology

The impact of bioenergy crop systems on biocontrol

The impact of bioenergy crop systems on biocontrolMeeting the current policy mandates for fossil fuel substitution by biofuels will require agricultural expansion and intensification, which can have significant consequences for biodiversity. One important ecosystem service that biodiversity provides is biological control (biocontrol). Biocontrol is the natural suppression of populations of herbivorous crop pests by arthropod predators and parasitoids, which can reduce or eliminate the need for pesticides, thus reducing environmental and economic costs.

Werling and coauthors examined the potential impacts of three biofuel production systems, corn, switchgrass, and mixed prairie, on biocontrol. Systems were characterized by attributes of the crops such as permanence, diversity, biomass production, and the composition of the surrounding landscape.

The authors found that perennial grasslands, especially those with high plant diversity, support more diverse and abundant predator communities that contribute to natural pest suppression compared to corn. Biocontrol services were also affected by the surrounding landscape.
Crop fields surrounded by perennial habitats supported greater biocontrol services and predation increased as the area of perennials in the landscape increased.

Decreasing the area of perennial habitats by converting forests or grasslands to annual crops like corn could reduce biocontrol services by reducing the area of perennial habitats. In contrast, biofuel landscapes that incorporate perennial grasslands could support a variety of beneficial organisms and ecosystem services in addition to producing biomass.

Werling, B. P., Meehan, T. D., Robertson, B. A., Gratton, C. And Landis, D. A. (2011), Biocontrol potential varies with changes in biofuel–crop plant communities and landscape perenniality. GCB Bioenergy. doi: 10.1111/j.1757-1707.2011.01092.x

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