Functioning of plant-aphid-natural enemy interactions may be associated with the structure and composition of within-field vegetation, neighborhood fields and field borders, and the regional plant community of cropped and noncropped areas. Farm-and region-scale vegetation in the wheat-growing area of the North American Great Plains was hypothesized to effect the abundance of two hymenopteran parasitoids, that differ in physiological and behavioral attributes, of the key pest aphid of wheat, Diuraphis noxia (Mordvilko). The parasitoids had greater sensitivity to farm-scale vegetation (wheat strip rotation with or without spring-sown sunflower) than region-scale vegetation (degree of diversification with other crops and wheat fields converted to conservation grasslands). A two-way factorial design of scale (farm- and region-scale) revealed that parasitoid abundance in grass-dominant (homogeneous) areas especially benefited from adding sunflower to the wheat-fallow strip crop rotation. Considerable sensitivity of the analysis was added when adjusting for seasonality of vegetation, revealing that the region-scale effects were most prominent late season. From a management viewpoint, adding sunflower into the wheat production system, especially in relatively homogeneous vegetation regions, tends to promote local parasitoid populations during the summer when spring-sown plants are maturing and wheat is not in cultivation. Contrasting results for A. albipodus and L. testaceipes were consistent with expectations based on behavioral and physiological attributes of the two aphid parasitoid families they represent. Still, the general management interpretation seems robust for the two parasitoids and has relevance to both farm- and region-scale management schemes that are occurring in the wheat production zone of North American Great Plains.
European Journal of Entomology