85863 - Functional Biodiversity To Enhance Pollination And Biological Control Of Pests

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Zero hunger Good health and well-being Responsible consumption and production Life on land

Academic Year 2018/2019

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course the student achieves the understanding on the role of functional biodiversity in agriculture, and its importance in plant protection and production. The student achieves the ability in the identification of insects (and other arthropods) which perform ecosystem services like pollination, biological control of pests and conversion on organic refuses by scavenger insects. The student knows the principles of agroecology and the techniques to enhance the functional biodiversity at different scales (field, farm, landscape). In particular the student achieves the understanding for the management of ecological focus areas in order to improve functional biodiversity.

Course contents

MODULE 1: FUNCTIONAL BIODIVERSITY TO ENHANCE POLLINATION (3 CFU). Pollination biology: basic concepts. The main insect pollinators. The value of pollination service. Decline of bees: trend, causes and consequences. The impacts of the agrochemical pesticides on bees. The link between landscape management, functional biodiversity and pollination service. Habitat creation and management for pollinators. Integrated Pest and Pollination Management. Identify and assessing pollination deficits in crops. Pollination management system. Integrated Crop Pollination. Pollinator biocontrol vector technology. Applied pollination: case-studies (fruit crops, vegetable crops, oilseed crops, forage crops, fibre crops).

MODULE 2: FUNCTIONAL BIODIVERSITY TO ENHANCE BIOLOGICAL CONTROL OF PEST (3 CFU). Introduction to the concept of functional biodiversity and ecosystem services. Conservation biological control. The role of ecological infrastructures (ecological focus areas) for beneficial arthropod conservation. Cover crops and their termination techniques: influence on biological control (top-down control). Review of habitat and landscape management at different spatial scales. The agro-ecological strategies for predator and parasitoid conservation will be treated with practical examples and by means of case-studies. The case-studies will include: orchard (e.g. vineyard), vegetable crops (e.g. cucurbits, tomato), arable crops (e.g. wheat, maize). The course mainly includes crops of importance of the Mediterranean area, but may also take into consideration cropping system of other parts of the world, according to the interest of the students. Insect bioindicators: the use of functional biodiversity to measure the quality of rural landscape. The habitat directive and the conservation of rare insect species. SYRPH THE NET, an informatized system based on Diptera Syrphidae: practical cases applied to Italian agroecosystems. Measuring the ecosystem services: method to quantify the predation and the parasitization, including analysis of trophic webs, insect collection of parasitized insects, exposition of sentinel stages (e.g. sentinel egg masses), the exclusion cage method, the method of dummy caterpillar for the estimation of predation pressure, molecular analysis of gut contents. Other ecosystem services: soil quality and fertility (the relationship between organic matter and soil fauna), decomposition of organic wastes by blach soldiers fly larvae (Hermetia illucens).


For the preparation of the course, the teachers will provide the PowerPoint lessons used during the teaching.

For further information, the following books are recommended:

Abrol D. P. (2012). Pollination biology. Biodiversity Conservation and Agricultural Production. Springer

Wäcker F. L., van Rijn C. J., Bruin J. (2005). Plant-Provided Food for Carnivorous Insects: a protective mutualism and its applications. Cambridge

Gurr G., Wratten S. (2000). Biological Control: Measures of success. Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Teaching methods

The course includes theoretical lectures, practical lectures in the classroom and laboratory.

  • Lectures (40 hours) treat the program in a theoretical way.
  • The practical activities (20 hours) treat aspects such as: the identification of the main beneficial arthropods by means of photographic material, audio-visual media and entomological boxes; analysis of case studies in relevant crops: agro-ecological strategies to improve pollination and biological control of pests

Assessment methods

Oral exam comprising the presentation (10 minutes) of a project realised by the student, related with the course contents. The project has to include a case study chosen by the student that should demonstrate capacity in integrating the topics belonging to the course modules. In particular, the student has to elaborate practical strategies to enhance pollination and biological control in the framework of sustainable agriculture. The student will be evaluated taking into account: the field feasibility of the project, the critical analysis of the treated topic, the communication capacity and the proper use of scientific terminology.

Teaching tools

PC, PowerPoint projector

Office hours

See the website of Fabio Sgolastra

See the website of Giovanni Burgio