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Effects of cover crops on the overwintering success of entomopathogenic nematodes and their antagonists

Jaffuel, Goeffrey; Blanco-Perez, Ruben; Büchi, Lucie; Mäder, Paul; Fliessbach, Andreas; Charles, Raphael; Degen, Thomas; Turlings, Ted C.J. and Campos-Herrera, Raquel (2017) Effects of cover crops on the overwintering success of entomopathogenic nematodes and their antagonists. Applied Soil Ecology, 114, pp. 62-73.

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Document available online at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0929139316305042


Conservation agriculture is arising as an alternative to conventional agriculture with the aim to have a reduced impact on the environment. This includes the use of cover crops to conserve soil quality by limiting soil erosion, adding organic matter, and enhancing soil nutrient content, as well as water availability, which are all factors that can greatly influence the presence of soil organisms. In the current study, we investigated whether winter cover crops can enhance the persistence of entomopathogenic nematodes (EPN) over the winter season. In a first trial we augmented EPN populations in plots without (bared) and with the cover crops, pea (Pisum sativum) or mustard (Brassica juncea). In late autumn, individual mini-plots in each of the three treatments were supplemented with infective juveniles (IJs) of either Heterorhabditis bacteriophora or Steinernema feltiae. In a second trial we studied naturally occurring EPN in plots without (bared) and with the cover crop pea (Pisum sativum) followed by planting of winter wheat. To identify and quantify EPN, we analyzed soil samples using quantitative real time PCR (qPCR) at three time points over the winter season. We also measured the activity of augmented EPN by baiting the soil with wax moth larvae, Galleria mellonella. In addition, we used the qPCR method to investigate the presence of nematophagous fungi (NF), free-living nematodes (FLN) and ectoparasitic bacteria, all of which can interfere with EPN performance. Numbers of naturally occurring EPN in the investigated fields were very low (< 1 EPN per 100 g of soil). The cover crops only had a significant positive effect on the numbers of augmented S. feltiae found in early winter. No striking effect was found for H. bacteriophora. Yet, augmentation was found to enhance the insect-suppressiveness of the soil, as the recorded EPN infectivity after the winter was slightly higher than what was observed in autumn, one month after application. The numbers of FLN, which compete for insect cadavers, was higher in spring than in early winter. These FLN and other antagonists may be important in reducing EPN numbers. In conclusion, the effect of cover crops on EPN persistence was only evident during early-winter and was only significant in the plots augmented with S. feltiae. Moreover, we found that higher numbers of EPN in agricultural soils do not necessarily translate into high infectivity, which is the key factor determining their effectiveness in controlling soil pests.

EPrint Type:Journal paper
Keywords:Cover crop, Entomopathogenic nematodes, Quantitative real–time PCR, Annual crop, Persistence
Subjects: Crop husbandry > Crop combinations and interactions
Crop husbandry > Crop health, quality, protection
Research affiliation: Switzerland > Agroscope
Switzerland > FiBL - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture Switzerland > Soil
Deposited By: Charles, Dr. Raphaël
ID Code:33974
Deposited On:09 Nov 2018 13:51
Last Modified:13 Jan 2021 07:25
Document Language:English
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted

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