University of Arkansas, Fayetteville Division of Agriculture
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Abstract

Ground cover mulch applications in perennial systems can have multiple benefits, one of which may be to enhance the size and diversity of the ground surface faunal community. To determine if ground cover and organic fertilizer applications altered invertebrate communities, litters in an experimental 0.4-ha organic apple orchard in Fayetteville, Ark. were sampled during a four week period beginning in February 2012. The orchard was planted in 2006 in a replicated 4 × 3 factorial design with organic ground cover and fertilizer treatments applied annually each April. Invertebrates were extracted using Berlese funnels and hand sorting techniques. Ground covers (wood chips (W), urban compost (C), and shredded paper (P)) increased abundances per unit area, taxa richness, and diversity compared to the litter of the mowed control (M), with the largest abundances on an area basis occurring in W. Nutrient applications had little to no effect on invertebrate communities. Isopoda comprised a larger proportion of the litter community in P compared to M. Compost enhanced the proportion of Diplopoda and Haplotaxida and W enhanced the proportion of Diplopoda and Isopoda compared to M. In terms of direct abundances, Chilopoda and Gastropoda as well as Diplopoda and Isopoda were higher in W than in M. Habitat differences on the soil surface resulting from managing the orchard with different ground covers altered the community composition of the litter fauna expected to facilitate decomposition, but did not show a predominance of predators that might be expected to enhance pest control.

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