Impact of switchgrass cultivar and cropping system on natural enemy communities and biological control services

Marissa Schuh
Michigan State University
Marissa Schuh is graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in entomology from Michigan State University. She works with Dr. Doug Landis on switchgrass being grown to produce cellulosic bioenergy, and how pests and their predators interact with this potential crop, chiefly in regards to different switchgrass cropping systems. More broadly, she is interested in ecology viewed through the lens of entomology, whether this is looking at prairie ecosystems and restoration, or how invasive species (insects and plants) impact the areas that they invade.
Other presenters/researchers: 
Doug Landis, Michigan State University

Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) is a perennial C4 grass that has been studied as a bioenergy crop. It is capable of producing high yields while supporting other ecosystem services, such as the biological control of pests. To investigate the role of switchgrass cultivar and cropping system on insect communities and biocontrol services, a network of plots of switchgrass, alone and in combination with other grasses and forbs, was established across Southern Michigan. In 2014 and 2015 the insect community of each plot was monitored using sweep net samples. Sentinel prey were used to measure the biological control service at corresponding times. Levels of biological control increased over the season, and upland cultivars and diverse plantings tended to increase predation rates. Natural enemy communities also varied by cultivar, but did not impact biological control levels. Overall, decisions about cropping systems when planting switchgrass can change insect communities and the services they provide.

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