Intercropping with Sunflowers to Attract Beneficial Insects in Organic Agriculture
AbstractSunflowers (Helianthus spp.) are listed in many extension factsheets and other such publications as excellent plants to attract beneficial insects in addition to those known to be important pollinators. We performed a 2-year study at a number of organic farms in Alachua County, Florida to determine if the presence of sunflower rows included in a polyculture system increased the occurrence and abundance of beneficial insects in cropped fields. The occurrence of beneficial insects was significantly greater on sunflower than on crop vegetation in control blocks and crop vegetation greater than 10 m distant from sunflowers. While crop vegetation 10 m distant from sunflowers harbored significantly fewer beneficial insects, this difference in occurrence was not seen in crop vegetation 1 m distant from sunflowers. Our results indicate that sunflowers indeed attract and play host to numerous beneficial insects suggesting that sunflower plantings within rows of vegetable crops may indeed be an effective way to attract beneficial insects into cropped fields. However, further study is required to fully describe the distances key beneficial insects move from sunflowers and the impact these beneficial insects have on crop pests.
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