Abundance of Insect Pests and their Effects on Biomass Yields of Single vs. Multi-species Planted Fallows
Rao, M. R.
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Indigenous and exotic leguminous shrubs that are promising for planted fallow for soil fertility replenishment in east and southern Africa have been found to harbour many herbivorous insects, giving suspicion that widespread adoption of fallow systems may aggravate insect pests. Studies were conducted on farms in western Kenya from 1999 to 2001 to monitor the abundance of herbivorous insects and assess their effects on biomass yields of pure and mixed fallows. The treatments tested were single and two-species mixtures of Tephrosia vogelii, Sesbania sesban and Crotalaria grahamiana and a natural fallow in a split plot design, with the fallow systems in the main plots and protection vs. no protection against insects in sub-plots spread over six farms. Eighteen insect species belonging to seven orders and 14 families were identified as pests of␣the fallows with varied abundance and infestation level across the sites. While Hilda patruelis and Amphicallia pactolicus were most damaging to C. grahamiana, Mesoplatys ochroptera was detrimental to S.␣sesban. T. vogelii hosted fewer insects than others. Nevertheless the pest infestation did not cause significant biomass yield reduction during the study period. Pest attack was generally greater in villages that had been testing the planted fallows for some years compared with villages that took up the fallows recently. This indicates the potential for increased pest infestation with increased adoption of the system by farmers. Multi-species fallows did not indicate any advantage over single species fallows in terms of either reduced pest incidence or increased biomass production.