Designing the “right” biodiversity for conservation and horticultural production
Less than one percent of the original native vegetation remains clinging to the Northern Adelaide Plain (NAP). This landscape hosts a thriving horticultural industry that contributes close to $700 million gross food value to the region. Chemical and cultural control are the major strategies for management of exotic insect pests that spread Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus, a major cause of crop loss. This has resulted in land degradation and weed incursions and there is a serious lack of commercial incentive to improve biodiversity
The focus of the Revegetation by Design project is to integrate natural resources management with pest management by replacing weeds with plants indigenous to the area. The objective is to provide information for the community, particularly horticulturalists, to make informed decisions about the benefits of planting native vegetation.
We surveyed to determine frequency of key pest and beneficial insects on weeds and native plants. Results indicate that native plants support a huge diversity of insects, including beneficial species with potential for conservation bio-control, while key pest thrips were rarely found on native plants and rarer still on grasses.
These findings provide an opportunity for landholders to invest in plant species that will create crucial habitat for threatened species while improving biodiversity and amenity. There are benefits for the environment with reduction in chemical use and therefore costs associated with pest and disease management. Local councils can consider native re-vegetation as a cost effective tool that will compliment horticultural production and be valuable in their amenity, roadside and buffer zone planting programs.