Intercropping with aromatic plants hindered the occurrence of Aphis citricola in an apple orchard system by shifting predator-prey abundances.
Enhancing biological control of pests through habitat management in agricultural systems has gained increasing attention. Three different aromatic plants, ageratum (Agerarum houstonianum Mill.), French marigold (Tagetes patula L.) and basil (Ocimum basilicum L.), were chosen as intercrops for apple orchards to evaluate the effects of intercropping on Aphis citricola Van der Goot and its local natural enemies in China. We found that compared with natural vegetation, A. citricola abundance was significantly decreased by 29.26%, 35.80% and 38.28% in plots intercropped with ageratum, French marigold and basil, respectively. The number of natural enemies of A. citricola in plots intercropped with T. patula and O. basilicum were significantly higher than in plots of natural vegetation. Equally important, intercropping affected the composition of natural enemies and the population dynamics of A. citricola and its natural enemies. Annual cumulative numbers of natural enemies were significantly negatively correlated with A. citricola annual cumulative individual numbers except for O. tantillus. Our results demonstrate that intercropping with aromatic plants could be an effective method for biological control of A. citricola in apple orchards.