Centre for Sustainable Pest and Disease Management, Biological Chemistry Department, Rothamsted Research
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The semiochemical experiment data were collected from novel laboratory, semi-field- and field-scale bioassay experiments taking behavioural observations and counts of pest insects and their natural enemies in the field. Crop yields were taken. Chemical analyses were also done using air entrainment. The study is part of the NERC Rural Economy and Land Use (RELU) programme. Despite the widespread concerns regarding the use of pesticides in food production and the availability of potentially viable biological pest control strategies in Integrated Pest Management (IPM) systems, the UK cereal crop production remains a bastion of pesticide use. This project aimed to understand further the reasons for this lack of adoption, using the control of summer cereal aphids as a case study. Reasons for this lack of adoption of biocontrol remain a complex interplay of both technical and economic problems. Economists highlight the potential path dependency of an industry to continue to employ a suboptimal technology, caused by past dynamics of adoption resulting in differential private cost structures of each technique. Further, risk aversion on the part of farmers regarding the perceived efficacy of a new technology may also limit up-take. This may be particularly important when IPM rests on portfolios of technologies and when little scientific understanding exists on the effect of portfolio and scale of adoption on overall efficacy. Faced with this, farmers will not adopt a socially superior IPM technology and there exists a clear need for public policy action. This action may take the form of minimising uncertainty through carefully designed research programs, government funding and dissemination of the results of large-scale research studies or direct public support for farm landscape and farm system changes that can promote biocontrol. This research looked at alternatives to the use of insecticides in arable agriculture and the difficulties facing producers in switching over to them. Two approaches were explored: habitat manipulations, to encourage predators and parasites, and using naturally occurring odours to manipulate predator distribution as model technologies. Scale and portfolio effects on biocontrol efficacy have been investigated in controlled and field scale experiments. Aim is to improve the way research and development of new products and techniques are carried out to help break the dependence on chemical pesticides. Conservation biological control experiments data investigating the effect of wild field margins on pests and predators, from this same research project, are also available. In addition, socio-economic research has been used to help direct natural science research into the development and evaluation of a combination of habitat management and semiochemical push-pull strategies of appropriate scale and complementarity to yield viable, commercially attractive and sustainable alternatives to the use of insecticides in cereal crop agriculture. These socio-economic data are available through the UK Data Archive under study number 6960 (see online resources). Further information and documentation for this study may be found through the RELU Knowledge Portal and the project's ESRC funding award web page (see online resources).