Pest suppression potential varies across 10 bioenergy cropping systems

Nathan L. Haan, Douglas A. Landis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Top-down suppression of herbivores is a fundamental ecological process and a critical service in agricultural landscapes. Adoption of bioenergy cropping systems is likely to become an increasingly important driver causing loss or gain of this service in coming decades. We measured natural pest suppression potential in ten model bioenergy crops in a long-term experimental array by deploying plasticine sentinel caterpillar mimics, which record imprints from predator attacks. Cropping systems included three intensive annual row crop systems and a range of simple perennial monocultures and more complex polycultures. We compared attack rates across the ten cropping systems and assessed differences over time within a growing season and between the ground level and canopy. We found strong differences in attack rates across cropping systems, usually with more attacks in perennial crops than annuals. However, outcomes varied in space and time, both within and among cropping systems. Birds and small mammals were responsible for most, and sometimes all, attacks in annual crops and were most important early in the season. Chewing arthropod attacks increased over the course of the growing season and were responsible for most attack events in perennial systems. In late summer there were almost no attacks in annual crop canopies, while attack rates in perennial canopies at the same time were quite high and were carried out almost entirely by chewing arthropods. Our results underscore the lack of trophic complexity in annual bioenergy cropping systems relative to perennials. They also illustrate the dramatic changes in predator activity and predation intensity that occur both seasonally and between the ground and plant canopy. Policies and practices that increase the footprint of annual crops for bioenergy are likely to cause a deficit in pest suppression services at local and landscape scales.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)765-775
Number of pages11
JournalGCB Bioenergy
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. GCB Bioenergy published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • bioenergy
  • ecosystem service
  • grassland
  • pest suppression
  • predation
  • sentinel prey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Waste Management and Disposal


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