Spatially optimal habitat management for enhancing natural control of an invasive agricultural pest: Soybean aphid
By their direct effects on private profitability, invasive agricultural pests create special incentives for management that set them apart from other categories of invasive species. One attractive nonchemical management approach for agricultural pests relies upon biological control by natural enemies. By improving the habitat of natural enemies of invasive agricultural pests, biological pest control can become privately attractive. This study develops a spatial optimization model to explore economically optimal spatial configuration of natural enemy habitat in agricultural landscapes. The model is applied to the management of soybean aphid (Aphis glycines), a recent invasive pest species of soybean production systems in the North Central region of the United States. Results indicate that non-crop habitat management can be a promising pest management option for organic cropping systems. Under current prices, however, habitat management tends to reduce net returns for conventional farms. Both area and configuration of non-crop habitats affect economic performance, with the greatest value coming from small, scattered areas of habitat.
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