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Integrating Insect, Resistance, and Floral Resource Management in Weed Control Decision-Making

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Antonio DiTommaso
Section of Soil and Crop Sciences, School of Integrative Plant Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853
Kristine M. Averill
Section of Soil and Crop Sciences, School of Integrative Plant Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853
Michael P. Hoffmann
Department of Entomology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853
Jeffrey R. Fuchsberg
Medical Center of the Americas Foundation, 201 E. Main Street, El Paso TX 79901
John E. Losey
Department of Entomology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853
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Managing agricultural pests with an incomplete understanding of the impacts that tactics have on crops, pests, and other organisms poses risks for loss of short-term profits and longer-term negative impacts, such as evolved resistance and nontarget effects. This is especially relevant for the management of weeds that are viewed almost exclusively as major impediments to crop production. Seldom considered in weed management are the benefits weeds provide in agroecosystems, which should be considered for optimal decision-making. Integration of weed costs and benefits will become increasingly important as management for pests transitions away from nearly complete reliance on herbicides and transgenic crop traits as the predominant approach for control. Here, we introduce a weed-management decision framework that accounts for weed benefits and exemplify how in-crop weed occurrence can increase crop yields in which a highly damaging insect also occurs. We highlight a case study showing how management decision-making for common milkweed, which is currently controlled primarily with glyphosate in herbicide-tolerant corn, can be improved by integrating management of the European corn borer (ECB), which is currently controlled primarily by the transgenic toxin Cry1 in Bacillus thuringiensis corn. Our data reveal that milkweed plants harboring aphids provide a food source (honeydew) for parasitoid wasps, which attack ECB eggs. Especially at high ECB population densities (> 1 egg mass leaf–1), maintaining low milkweed densities (< 1 stem m–2), effectively helps to minimize yield losses from ECB and to increase the economic injury level of this aggressive perennial weed. In addition, milkweed is the host for the monarch butterfly, so breeding-ground occurrences of the plant, including crop fields, may help sustain populations of this iconic insect. Using a more-holistic approach to integrate the management of multiple crop pests has the capacity to improve decision-making at the field scale, which can improve outcomes at the landscape scale.

Weed Management
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Creative Common License - CCCreative Common License - BY
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution license (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Copyright © 2016 by the Weed Science Society of America


Associate editor for this paper: John L. Lindquist, University of Nebraska.


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