Flower strips specifically geared to the needs of beneficial insects can be a feasible tool for practitioners wishing to enhance biological pest control in the field. This was demonstrated by experiments with so-called ‘flower strips for beneficials’ sown as annual strips in the arable crop with 13 to 16 species of wild and cultivated plants such as cornflowers, coriander, buckwheat, poppy and dill.
Experiments have shown that densities of the harmful cereal-leaf beetle in adjoining fields of winter wheat were 40 to 53% lower than when no flower strips were sown at the field margin. This low pest pressure even resulted in a 61% reduction in damage to the wheat plants. Besides the antagonists of cereal-leaf beetles and aphids, further animal as well as many plant species benefit from these flowering habitats. In order for annual flower strips for beneficials to fully develop their effect, it is first of all important for them to be well integrated in linked perennial habitats with hedgerows, low-input meadows and wildflower strips, and secondly, for them to be combined with a management approach that protects beneficials.
Since 2015, farmers have been able to create so-called ‘flower strips for pollinators and other beneficials’ as biodiversity-promotion areas (BPAs) for ecological compensation. Via the ‘Flowering Habitats’ platform and together with its partner institutions FiBL, HAFL and SBV, Agroscope coordinates the further development of flowering habitats in the agricultural landscape. The AGBA (Biodiversity in Arable farming) working group aims to promote ecological compensation in arable-farming regions. Members take part in the further development of seed mixtures.