Chen, L., Pozsgai, G., Li, X., Li, L., Reddy, G.V.P. & You, M. (2021) Effects of cover crops on beetle assemblages in tea plantations.Crop Protection, 149, 105783. DOI:10.1016/j.cropro.2021.105783 (IF2020 2,571; Q1 Agronomy)
Coleoptera are visible members of food webs in tea plantations, with high species richness and abundance. Many tea pests, as well as natural enemies, are members of this order, so a knowledge of how groundcovers affect beetles can aid pest management. We collected beetles in a replicated field experiment in the Wuyi Mountains, Fujian Province, China. Tea was intercropped with Paspalum notatum or Chamaecrista rotundifolia, or rows were cleared to bare ground, or in the control they were left unmanaged to allow weeds to grow naturally. Sampling, done by sweep netting and vegetation beating, was conducted monthly, between May 2006 and April 2008, and Coleoptera abundance, biomass, species richness and assemblage structures were compared between groundcover treatments. Total beetle abundance and species richness were significantly higher in tea intercropped with C. rotundifolia and bare ground than in naturally grown weedy control. Whilst there was no difference between predator assemblages among treatments for any measure, herbivores were more abundant, weighed more, and were more diverse in C. rotundifolia treatments than in weedy control. Biomass and species richness were also greater in plots with P. notatum groundcover than those in weedy control. We found that beetle assemblages varied both seasonally and with ground cover treatment, but the potential pest control impact of more species-rich beetle assemblages was mixed, and further work is needed to gain information on trophic groups with potential benefits for use in non-insecticidal pest management.