Invertebrates and vegetation of field margins adjacent to crops subject to contrasting herbicide regimes in the Farm Scale Evaluations of genetically modified herbicide–tolerant crops

D. B. Roy, D. A. Bohan, A. J. Haughton, M. O. Hill, J. L. Osborne, S. J. Clark, J. N. Perry, P. Rothery, R. J. Scott, D. R. Brooks, G. T. Champion, C. Hawes, M. S. Heard, L. G. Firbank

Abstract

The effects of management of genetically modified herbicide–tolerant (GMHT) crops on adjacent field margins were assessed for 59 maize, 66 beet and 67 spring oilseed rape sites. Fields were split into halves, one being sown with a GMHT crop and the other with the equivalent conventional non–GMHT crop. Margin vegetation was recorded in three components of the field margins. Most differences were in the tilled area, with fewer smaller effects mirroring them in the verge and boundary. In spring oilseed rape fields, the cover, flowering and seeding of plants were 25%, 44% and 39% lower, respectively, in the GMHT uncropped tilled margins. Similarly, for beet, flowering and seeding were 34% and 39% lower, respectively, in the GMHT margins. For maize, the effect was reversed, with plant cover and flowering 28% and 67% greater, respectively, in the GMHT half. Effects on butterflies mirrored these vegetation effects, with 24% fewer butterflies in margins of GMHT spring oilseed rape. The likely cause is the lower nectar supply in GMHT tilled margins and crop edges. Few large treatment differences were found for bees, gastropods or other invertebrates. Scorching of vegetation by herbicide–spray drift was on average 1.6% on verges beside conventional crops and 3.7% beside GMHT crops, the difference being significant for all three crops.

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