González, E., D. A. Landis, M. Knapp, and G. Valladares. 2020. Forest cover and proximity decrease herbivory and increase crop yield via enhanced natural enemies in soybean fields. Journal of Applied Ecology doi: 10.1111/1365-2664.13732
1. Non-crop habitats are essential for sustaining biodiversity of beneficial arthropods in agricultural landscapes, which can increase ecosystem services provision and crop yield. However, their effects on specific crop systems are less clear, such as soybean in South America, where the responses of pests and natural enemies to landscape structure have only recently been studied.
2. Here, we analysed how native forest fragments at local and landscape scales influenced arthropod communities, herbivory and yield in soybean fields in central Argentina. To do this, we selected soybean fields located in agricultural landscapes with varying proportions of forest cover. At two distances (10 and 100 m) from a focal forest fragment, we sampled natural enemy and herbivore arthropods, and measured soybean herbivory and yield. We focused on herbivore diversity, abundance of key soybean pests in the region (caterpillars and stink bugs), and their generalist and specialist natural enemies.
3.Higher abundance of predators, lower herbivory rates and increased yield were found near forests, while overall forest cover in the landscape was positively related with parasitoid and stink bug abundance, soybean yield, and negatively with herbivory. Moreover, yield was positively linked to richness and abundance of generalist and specialist enemies and independent of herbivory according to piecewise Structural Equation Models.
4. Synthesis and applications. Our results show positive effects of native forests on biodiversity and yield in soybean crops, highlighting the need for conservation of forest fragments in agricultural landscapes. Moreover, the relation between natural enemies and crop yield suggests that Chaco forests support a diverse and abundant community of natural enemies that can provide sustained levels of ecosystem services and result in positive effects for farmers.