Use of novel crops for bio-fuel production requires evaluating the potential for sound ecological and economical implementation in a particular region. We examined the pest and generalist beneficial insect species associated with various winter cover crops (including narrowleaf lupin, white vetch, Austrian winter pea, crimson clover, faba bean, and rye) as sources of colonists in 2 subsequent summer crops, sorghum and cotton. Sorghum is a potential cellulosic bio-fuel crop and cotton is commonly grown in the region and could be a viable low-input rotation for biofuel sorghum. Insects were sampled weekly over 3 ys in winter cover plots beginning in early spring and in the later planted crop plots beginning at the 15 cm height stage of the crops and continuing for 3 - 6 wks. Of the predators, coccinellids (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) dominated and were consistently abundant in vetch, faba and lupin, as was the pea aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum Harris (Hemiptera: Aphididae) and the aphid parasitoid, Lysiphlebus testaceipes Cresson (Hymenoptera: Aphiidae). Orius spp. (Hemiptera: Anthocoridae) dominated in lupin. Of the pest species, thrips spp. (Thysanoptera: Thipidae) were highest in lupin and pea, and stink bugs (Hemiptera: Pentatomidae) were highest in clover. No differences in chinch bugs (Hemiptera: Lygaeidae) were found among the covers. There was a ‘relay’ of these species into all of the summer crop plots from living winter crops. Boll damage from stink bugs was highest in the cotton following lupin, pea and fallow with fertilizer; there was no damage from chinch bugs in sorghum. Faba beans had declining stands over the 3 ys, suggesting that this species would not be a reliable winter crop in this system. Vetch and lupin may be the best candidates as banker plants because of their ability to consistently sustain pea aphids and coccinellids, the former which is a nonpest of sorghum and cotton.
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