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Ecological Principles Offer Insight on Crop Pests

Researchers who analyzed 13 years of data from California’s agriculturally productive Kern County discovered that less-diverse croplands led to greater variability in pesticide use, as well as to higher peak pesticide application. Data supported the theory that diversity promotes stability in biological systems. “We find increasing cropland in the landscape and larger fields generally increase the level and variability of pesticides, while crop diversity has the opposite effect,” the study authors wrote in the journal Nature Sustainability. Smaller fields have more perimeter area that can serve as beneficial insect and crop-pest predator habitat, and these pest predators were able to access the entire field when it was a small field. Also, having different crops in proximity prevented insect pests from multiplying unimpeded.