Native Habitat Restoration, Sustainable IPM, an...

Native Habitat Restoration, Sustainable IPM, and Beneficial Insect Conservation

Native Habitat Restoration, Sustainable IPM, and Beneficial Insect Conservation


The Challenge

Washington wine grape growers have made significant steps in reducing the use of insecticides and miticides to control arthropod pests that seriously affect wine grape production. The development of low-input Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies that increase the role of conservation biological control (CBC) led these decreases. However, a key to improving the sustainability of IPM and CBC is a diversified, native habitat that contains resources for predators and parasitoids year-round. This can be accomplished by creating a farm landscape that mimics the habitat that existed before the vineyard and is attractive to beneficial arthropods. According to David James of Washington State University, agricultural development in central Washington has contributed to the large scale removal and degradation of native sagebrush-desert steppe habitat, which is home to a diverse flora and fauna that now only flourishes on the fringes of agro-ecosystems.  James and his project team hypothesized that restoring this ecosystem within the agricultural zone had great potential for Washington wine grape growers. They developed the Western SARE project Native Habitat Restoration, Sustainable IPM, and Beneficial Insect Conservation with the aim of restoring native sage-steppe habitat in, around, or near vineyards, along with beneficial insects and threatened butterflies. The project would “address the Washington wine grape industry priorities of reducing synthetic chemical inputs, improving the sustainability of integrated pest management, and increasing the use of sustainable farming practices that protect the environment and community as a whole.” Success would also provide opportunities of “green marketing” of wine.

Searching for a Solution

James and his team sought an innovative habitat restoration model and green marketing opportunity for Washington vineyards by enhancing sustainable CBC and IPM that aids conservation of bees and butterflies.

His objectives were:

1.  Select four demonstration (Native Habitat Restoration: NHR) and four (paired) control vineyards.

2.  Monitor pest and beneficial arthropods in NHR and control vineyards to provide data on abundance and seasonality of pests, natural enemies, butterflies, and bees.

3.  Establish additional refugia and native perennial ground cover plots in demonstration vineyards.

4.  Conduct a survey of abundance of pest natural enemies attracted to flowering native perennials in southern and central Washington and collect data for 30-50 potential candidates for ground covers.

5. Establish native perennial ground cover candidates in field plot trial at WSU-Prosser for evaluation as natural enemy attractants.

6. Mass rear and release selected butterfly species in NHR vineyards using the Sustainable Prisons program.

7. Establish and maintain NHR website.

The Native Habitat Restoration sites chosen were already undertaking restoring habitat. Sites were located in different appellations.  Control vineyards were selected for their absence of refugia and ground covers and were located in the same district. James states that “NHR and control vineyards were as similar as possible in terms of size and grape varieties. Maximum involvement from collaborating vineyard personnel was obtained in continued establishment and maintenance of plants and refugia.”

What was Learned

James and his team found that “the outcomes from this project provide a solid foundation for strategies to develop vineyard ecosystems that enhance conservation biological control of pests while providing habitat for threatened native flora and pollinators.” They obtained an extensive amount of information on the relative value of more than 100 flowering plant species in attracting beneficial insects, including predators, parasitoids, and pollinators. These species include Snowy Milkweed, Yarrow, Gray Rabbitbrush, among many others.

Results also demonstrated that “populations of grapevine pests are also smaller and have less impact in habitat-enhanced vineyards than in conventional vineyards. Diversity and abundance of butterflies (important pollinators) were greater in habitat-enhanced than conventional vineyards.”

James’ research revealed an opportunity for wine grape growers to gain dual benefits from encouraging native flora and habitats. He states, “aside from the clear economic benefit of increasing populations of predatory and parasitic insects to improve biological control of pests, the establishment of native plants also provides resources for threatened populations of pollinators like butterflies and native bees.”

Want more information? See the related SARE grant(s) SW10-052, Native Habitat Restoration, Sustainable IPM, and Beneficial Insect Conservation .

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Sustainable Ag in the Pacific Islands

Download the report to read highlights of funded projects in Guam, Micronesia, the Northern Marianas Islands, and American Samoa, such as combating plant disease in key crops, building direct links between farmers and chefs, and creating integrated vegetable and livestock systems.