Habitat management for the enhancement of arthropod services in flue-cured Virginia tobacco
Arthropods are a phylum of animals with jointed legs, which includes insects. They offer a wide range of ecosystem services, like nurturing the soil health, pollination, seed dispersal, pest management etc. The objective of the research was to study the diversity of arthropods in flue-cured Virginia tobacco ecosystems by employing habitat management aspects. During 2021-22, arthropod samples were taken utilising novel pitfall traps from tobacco crops managed using various pest management modules including habitat management aspects. These were sorghum barrier modules; chickpea and cowpea intercrop modules; integrated pest management (IPM); bio control; chemical control modules and sole crop. Community diversity was analysed in terms of species richness (Shannon-Weiner index), dominance (Simpson index), effective number of species and evenness indices followed by Bray-Curtis similarity. Species composition was ascertained at order, family and morphospecies level for the 1891 arthropods collected viz., insects, spiders, harvestmen, millipedes, pseudoscorpions etc. Hymenopterans predominated by 70 % of the total samples, while acari 8.2, and araneae 6.0 %. The data suggests that arthropods were abundant in all of those modules with ecologically managed habitats compared to the chemical management. Species richness was higher in IPM and chickpea (1.7), followed by cowpea intercropping (1.5). Effective number of species (ENS) was the highest in chickpea (6.01) followed by IPM (5.95). IPM and chick pea intercropping further increased the evenness in the crop. Therefore, inclusion of barrier and intercrops besides following IPM, can facilitate natural pest control and hence, stability of the crop ecosystem. It also has implications in reducing the over-reliance on pesticides and consequently curtails the crop protection agent (CPA) residue issues in tobacco.