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14 February 2023 Multi-Seed Zea Pellets (MSZP) for Increasing Agroecosystem Biodiversity
Anna S. Westbrook, Masoume Amirkhani, Alan G. Taylor, Michael T. Loos, John E. Losey, Antonio DiTommaso
Author Affiliations +

Intensive agricultural crop production is typically associated with low biodiversity. Low biodiversity is associated with a deficit of ecosystem services, which may limit crop yield (e.g., low pollination of insect-pollinated crops) at the individual field level or exacerbate the landscape-level impacts of intensive agriculture. To increase biodiversity and enhance ecosystem services with minimal loss of crop production area, farmers can plant desirable non-crop species near crop fields. Adoption of this practice is limited by inefficiencies in existing establishment methods. We have developed a novel seed-molding method allowing non-crop species to be planted with a conventional corn (Zea mays L.) planter, reducing labor and capital costs associated with native species establishment. Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca L.) was selected as a model native species, because Asclepias plants are the sole food source for monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus L.) larvae. Stratified A. syriaca seeds were added to a mixture of binder (maltodextrin) and filler (diatomaceous earth and wood flour) materials in a 3D-printed mold with the dimensions of a corn seed. The resulting Multi-Seed Zea Pellets (MSZP), shaped like corn seeds, were tested against non-pelleted A. syriaca seeds in several indoor and outdoor pot experiments. Molding into MSZP did not affect percent emergence or time to emergence from a 2-cm planting depth. Intraspecific competition among seedlings that emerged from an MSZP did not differ from competition among seedlings that emerged from a cluster of non-pelleted seeds. These findings demonstrate the potential of MSZP technology as a precise and efficient method for increasing agroecosystem biodiversity.

Anna S. Westbrook, Masoume Amirkhani, Alan G. Taylor, Michael T. Loos, John E. Losey, and Antonio DiTommaso "Multi-Seed Zea Pellets (MSZP) for Increasing Agroecosystem Biodiversity," Weed Science 71(2), 160-171, (14 February 2023).
Received: 16 November 2022; Accepted: 30 January 2023; Published: 14 February 2023
Asclepias syriaca
Danaus plexippus
Monarch butterfly
seed pelleting
wildflower strips
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