Predation Pressure in Tea ( Camellia sinensis ) Plantations in Southeastern China Measured by the Sentinel Prey Method

Titus S Imboma, De-Ping Gao, Min-Sheng You, Shijun You, Gabor L Lövei
Insects 2020 March 29, 11 (4)
Tea ( Camellia sinensis ) is an important food product with thousands of years of human use. Being a non-washable food, no pesticide residues are allowed, which increases the importance of natural means of plant protection. Predation, a component of natural pest control, is an important contributor to this, but its level and sustainability are not known in most of the areas of tea production. We quantified predation intensity using the artificial sentinel prey method in a tea-growing landscape containing remnants of the original forest vegetation in Fujian Province, China. The most common predators were chewing arthropods (49.8% of predation events) and birds (48.1%). Overall, predation rates at the edges of forest fragments (18.9% d-1 ) were lower than either in fragment interiors (25.4%d-1 ) or in the surrounding tea plantations (19.2-24.1%d-1 ). Arthropod predation was higher inside, and at the edge of, forest fragments than within plantations, and generally decreased with increasing distance from a fragment edge, indicating limited spillover of arthropod predators from the native habitat remnants to the cultivated matrix at the local scale. Bird predation, though, showed a different trend: it was lower on the inside of forest fragments than in the tea planation, and bird attack rates increased at increasing distances (up to 40 m) from the forest fragment edge. We also found a reciprocal relationship between attack rates by birds and arthropods, suggesting intra-guild predation. Measures protecting arthropod natural enemies could increase the combined pest suppression effect, contributing to pesticide-free tea production in China.

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