Ground cover vegetation is often added or allowed to generate to promote conservation biological control, especially in perennial crops. Nevertheless, there is inconsistent evidence of its effectiveness, with studies reporting positive, nil or negative effects on pest control. This might arise from differences between studies at the local scale (e.g. orchard management and land use history), the landscape context (e.g. presence of patches of natural or seminatural vegetation near the focal orchard), or regional factors, particularly climate in the year of the study. Here we present the findings from a long-term regional monitoring program conducted on four pest species (Bactrocera oleae, Prays oleae, Euphyllura olivina, Saissetia oleae) in 2,528 olive groves in Andalusia (Spain) from 2006 to 2012. Generalized linear mixed effect models were used to analyze the effect of ground cover on different response variables related to pest abundance, while accounting for variability at the local, landscape and regional scales. There were small and inconsistent effects of ground cover on the abundance of pests whilst local, landscape and regional variability explained a large proportion of the variability in pest response variables. This highlights the importance of local and landscape-related variables in biological control and the potential effects that might emerge from their interaction with practices, such as groundcover vegetation, implemented to promote natural enemy activity. The study points to perennial vegetation close to the focal crop as a promising alternative strategy for conservation biological control that should receive more attention.
Paredes, D., Cayuela, L., Gurr, G. M., & Campos, M. (2015). Is ground cover vegetation an effective biological control enhancement strategy against Olive Pests? PLoS ONE, 10(2). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0117265