Pest–predator spatial relationships in winter rape: implications for integrated crop management.
The brassica pod midge (Dasineura brassicae) is an important and widespread pest of winter and spring oilseed rape throughout Europe. Pods infested by D brassicae larvae split prematurely, releasing seeds, and the larvae drop to the soil into which they burrow to pupate. At this stage in its lifecycle D brassicae is potentially vulnerable to predation by carabid beetles foraging on the soil surface. This is the first study in the UK to focus on carabid beetles as predators of D brassicae in the oilseed rape crop. The spatio-temporal distributions of larvae of D brassicae dropping to the soil from the crop canopy and of adult carabid beetles active on the soil surface were analysed in two consecutive years. Insect samples were collected from spatially referenced sampling points across each crop. Counts of insects were mapped and analysed, and the degree of spatial association between predator and prey determined using Spatial Analysis by Distance Indices (SADIE). Carabid species abundant and active during peak drop of first generation D brassicae larvae included Agonum dorsale, Amara similata, Harpalus rufipes and Nebria brevicollis. The larvae of D brassicae had a marked edge distribution within the crop. SADIE analysis revealed significant spatial association between larvae of D brassicae and adult H rufipes (P < 0.05) in 1998, but not with adults of A dorsale, A similata or N brevicollis. In 1999, there was strong spatial association only between larvae of D brassicae and adult A dorsale (P < 0.01). Aggregation of N brevicollis adults occurred in some areas of greatest D brassicae larval counts in 1999, but overall spatial association was not significant. The distributions are discussed in terms of their relevance to integrated crop management (ICM) strategies and spatial targeting of insecticides.