Monday, December 1, 2008

Increasing corn for biofuel production reduces biocontrol services in agricultural landscapes


"Increased demand for corn grain as an ethanol feedstock is altering U.S. agricultural landscapes and the ecosystem services they provide. From 2006 to 2007, corn acreage increased 19% nationally, resulting in reduced crop diversity in many areas. Biological control of insects is an ecosystem service that is strongly influenced by local landscape structure. Here, we estimate the value of natural biological control of the soybean aphid, a major pest in agricultural landscapes, and the economic impacts of reduced biocontrol caused by increased corn production in 4 U.S. states (Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin). For producers who use an integrated pest management strategy including insecticides as needed, natural suppression of soybean aphid in soybean is worth an average of $33 ha−1. At 2007–2008 prices these services are worth at least $239 million y−1 in these 4 states. Recent biofuel-driven growth in corn planting results in lower landscape diversity, altering the supply of aphid natural enemies to soybean fields and reducing biocontrol services by 24%. This loss of biocontrol services cost soybean producers in these states an estimated $58 million y−1 in reduced yield and increased pesticide use. For producers who rely solely on biological control, the value of lost services is much greater..."

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