Indigenous cover crops have the potential to promote an increase in natural enemies providing fortuitous control of pest species and other ecosystem services. We test this idea in a vineyard in south eastern Australia, where reduced water availability because of drought coupled with increased temperatures has generated interest in sustainable alternatives to the exotic perennial cover crops commonly planted. Three endemic perennial cover crops, comprising the grasses Austrodanthonia richardsonii and Chloris truncata and a mix of two saltbushes (Atriplex semibaccata and Atriplex suberecta) were established as cover crops and compared with introduced oats (Avena sativa). Abundance of a range of predators and parasitoids was higher in vines with native cover crops compared with the oat control. In addition, predation levels of sentinel eggs of a common vineyard pest, light brown apple moth (Epiphyas postvittana), were increased in the native cover crops. However, the native cover crops also increased the abundance of some potential pest species. Native plants therefore have potential to increase abundance of beneficial invertebrates that assist in pest control, but need to be used carefully to ensure that they do not increase local pest problems.
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