Annual crop fields typically are simple habitats dominated by a few plant species where pesticides play a major role in managing weed and insect infestations. Recently, there has been significant interest in the potential to reduce reliance on pesticides by manipulating plant species and communities to benefit natural enemies of insects and weeds. Such efforts aim to enhance natural enemy impact by providing appropriate food, shelter, and hosts, and efforts typically are accomplished by manipulation of plant species, populations, or communities. Habitat management is generally viewed as an important factor in maintaining stable insect and natural enemy populations in agricultural systems and may have a similar function in increasing weed seed predation. Crop and noncrop habitats provide resources to natural enemies either directly through floral nectar and pollen, indirectly by increased host or prey availability, or through emergent properties of the habitat such as by moderating the microclimate. These critical resources for natural enemies can be provided in agricultural ecosystems at several scales: within fields, at field margins, or as a component of the larger landscape. Because individual natural enemy species may require quite specific resources at different times and spatial scales, not all attempts to manipulate habitat diversity are equally effective. We review the role of plant resources, including weeds, in supporting natural enemy communities and provide case studies of how varying plant diversity at different spatial scales can influence the effectiveness of biological control in agricultural landscapes.
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Vol. 53 • No. 6