Balancing competition for resources with multiple pest regulation in diversified agroecosystems: a process-based approach to reconcile diversification and productivity

Poeydebat, Ch; Carval, D; de Lapeyre de Bellaire, L; Tixier, P

Ecology and Evolution 2016; 1–10


Agroecosystem plant diversification can enhance pest biological regulation and is a promising alternative to pesticide application. However, the costs of competition for resources between plants may exceed the benefits gained by pest regulation. To disentangle the interactions between pest regulation and competition, we developed a generic process-based approach that accounts for the effects of an associated plant and leaf and root pests on biomass production. We considered three crop–plant associations that differ in competition profiles, and we simulated biomass production under wide ranges of both pest regulation rates and resources' availability. We analyzed outputs to quantify the pest regulation service level that would be required to attain monoculture yield and other production goals. Results showed that pest regulation requirements were highly dependent on the profile of resource interception of the associated plant and on resources' availability. Pest regulation and the magnitude of competition between plants interacted in determining the balance between nitrogen and radiation uptake by the crop. Our findings suggest that productivity of diversified agroecosystems relative to monoculture should be optimized by assembling plants whose characteristics balance crops' resource acquisition. The theoretical insights from our study draw generic rules for vegetation assemblage to optimize trade-offs between pest regulation and production. Our findings and approach may have implications in understanding, theorizing and implementing agroecosystem diversification. By its generic and adaptable structure, our approach should be useful for studying the effects of diversification in many agroecosystems.