Designing pest suppressive landscapes on the computer

Supervisors

Felix Bianchi (FSE Wageningen UR)
Walter Rossing (FSE Wageningen UR)

Description

Although it is widely accepted that landscape context can influence natural pest suppression in agricultural landscapes, it is less clear which landscape designs offer the best potential for top-down pest suppression by natural enemies. The reason for this is that the interactions between pests and natural enemies are influenced by a range of factors, including resource availability (e.g. host plants, floral nectar, prey), disturbances (e.g. insecticide applications) and species characteristics (e.g. dispersal ability). Spatially explicit simulation models offer the possibility to explore how landscape mosaics composed of various crop and non-crop habitats with specific disturbance levels influence the population dynamics and interactions between pests and natural enemies. This research offers an opportunity to develop spatial models for a parasitoid-host system and analyse the interactions between pest management strategies based on provision of floral food resources for parasitoids and broad-spectrum pesticide use, which can kill hosts and parasitoids.

Objectives

To develop and analyse a spatially explicit simulation model for a parasitoid-host system in a heterogeneous landscape setting. Trade-offs and opportunities for combining conventional pest management strategies based on the use of broad-spectrum insecticides and ecologically based pest management by provision of floral food resources for parasitoids will be evaluated.

Procedures

  • Adjust an existing model for parasitoid-host interactions and include the effect of floral resource availability on parasitoid population dynamics
  • Identify and explore scenarios of conventional and ecologically based pest management in heterogeneous landscapes

Experiences gained

  • Modelling
  • Data analysis
  • Writing skills