•Sown wildflower strips strongly reduced cereal leaf beetle numbers in nearby crops.
•This resulted in a 40% reduction of pest-induced crop damage near wildflower strips.
•Moreover, crop yield was increased by 10% in fields next to wildflower strips.
•Broadleaved cover, flower density and diversity were positive predictors of yield.
Many studies have shown that planting strips of wildflowers amidst croplands can help replace some of the biodiversity that is lost in the quest to feed a growing, global population. More recently, studies have demonstrated that the increased biodiversity found in these strips includes species of insects and birds that act as an all-natural pest control, reducing or eliminating the need for pesticides.
How these strips affect crop yields, however, has been largely unexplored. That’s the topic researchers tackled in a study published recently in the journal Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment. They found that the presence of nearby perennial, species-rich wildflower strips increased winter wheat production by 10 percent as compared to control fields.
Tschumi, M. et al. (2016) Perennial, species-rich wildflower strips enhance pest control and crop yield. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment (220)