Conservation biological control experiments data, 2005-2009 - RELU Re-bugging the system: promoting adoption of alternative pest management strategies in field crop

This set of conservation biological control experiments data was collected as part of five field experiments investigating agricultural biological control techniques, particularly the effect of wild field margins on pests and predators. The study is part of the NERC Rural Economy and Land Use (RELU) programme. Despite the widespread concerns regarding the use of pesticides in food production and the availability of potentially viable biological pest control strategies in Integrated Pest Management (IPM) systems, the UK cereal crop production remains a bastion of pesticide use. This project aimed to understand further the reasons for this lack of adoption, using the control of summer cereal aphids as a case study. Reasons for this lack of adoption of biocontrol remain a complex interplay of both technical and economic problems. Economists highlight the potential path dependency of an industry to continue to employ a suboptimal technology, caused by past dynamics of adoption resulting in differential private cost structures of each technique. Further, risk aversion on the part of farmers regarding the perceived efficacy of a new technology may also limit up-take. This may be particularly important when IPM rests on portfolios of technologies and when little scientific understanding exists on the effect of portfolio and scale of adoption on overall efficacy. Faced with this, farmers will not adopt a socially superior IPM technology and there exists a clear need for public policy action. This action may take the form of minimising uncertainty through carefully designed research programs, government funding and dissemination of the results of large-scale research studies or direct public support for farm landscape and farm system changes that can promote biocontrol. This research looked at alternatives to the use of insecticides in arable agriculture and the difficulties facing producers in switching over to them. Two approaches were explored: habitat manipulations, to encourage predators and parasites, and using naturally occurring odours to manipulate predator distribution as model technologies. Scale and portfolio effects on biocontrol efficacy have been investigated in controlled and field scale experiments. Aim is to improve the way research and development of new products and techniques are carried out to help break the dependence on chemical pesticides. 'Semiochemical experiment data, 2005-2009 - RELU Re-bugging the system: promoting adoption of alternative pest management strategies in field crop systems' from this same research project are also available. In addition, socio-economic research has been used to help direct natural science research into the development and evaluation of a combination of habitat management and semiochemical push-pull strategies of appropriate scale and complementarity to yield viable, commercially attractive and sustainable alternatives to the use of insecticides in cereal crop agriculture. These socio-economic data are available through the UK Data Archive under study number 6960 (see online resources). Further information and documentation for this study may be found through the RELU Knowledge Portal and the project's ESRC funding award web page (see online resources).

Publication date: 2013-07-26


Study area
Temporal extent
2005-01-01    to    2009-12-31

Provenance & quality

Research funded by Economic and Social Research Council, Natural Environment Research Council and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. Award Number: RES-224-25-0093 This data was collected as part of five field experiments, respectively aiming to: - determine whether floristically enhanced field margins improve levels of cereal aphid control by natural enemies and whether this varies with distance from the margin. - investigate the colonisation of cereal fields by pest natural enemies for fields withand without floristically enhanced wide field margins. - determine whether levels of biocontrol are influenced by landscape complexity and in particular the proportion of enhanced field margins. - determine whether abundance and distribution of flying natural enemies are influenced by landscape complexity and in particular the proportion of enhanced field margins. - investigate the spatial distribution of flying predators and their aphid prey in fields with flower rich margins. Full details of the five experiments and the data collection methodologies used can be found in the user guide, which is included in the data download package.


This dataset is included in the following collections

Rural economy and land use programme (RELU)

Supplemental information

Other useful information regarding this dataset:

Correspondence/contact details

John Holland
Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust


John Holland
Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust

Other contacts

NERC EDS Environmental Information Data Centre
Alastair Bailey
School of Economics, Keynes College, University of Kent
John Holland
Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust

Additional metadata

Topic categories
Biota , Environment , Farming
age,  agricultural land,  agronomy,  cereals,  cropping systems,  crops,  environmental conservation,  environmental degradation,  environmental issues,  environmental management,  farmers,  farms,  gender,  grain crops,  insecticides,  land tenure,  organic farming,  pest control,  pesticides,  pests,  Re-Bugging the System: Promoting Adoption of Alternative Pest Management Strategies in Field Crop Systems,  Rural Economy and Land Use Programme,  United Kingdom weeds
Habitats and Biotopes
Human Health and Safety
Land Use
Spatial representation type
Tabular (text)
Spatial reference system
OSGB 1936 / British National Grid
Last updated
25 June 2021 18:37