Over 500 California Almond Growers Surveyed for Perspectives on Pollination Practices

The Integrated Crop Pollination Project has released the summary report from its
2015 survey of California almond growers’ pollination practices. This is the third in a series of reports summarizing grower pollination practices in specialty crops around the United States. Previously, published reports focused on Michigan blueberry and Florida blueberry.

Almond_ICPThe survey of 550 almond growers in five California counties (Fresno, Glenn, Kern, Stanislaus, and Riverside) delved into growers’ goals for pollination management, networks of information sources about pollination, and past, current, and potential future practices related to managing and supporting pollinators in almond orchards.

The large majority of CA almond growers depend on honey bees for pollination and, in general, rely on honey bees more than blueberry growers (93% of almond growers buy, rent, or own managed honey bees, compared with 79% of Michigan blueberry growers and 61% of Florida blueberry growers). On-going research aims to understand how to integrate honey bees with Blue Orchard Bees and wild, native bees to improve pollination.

Many almond growers reported using reduced-risk pesticide practices to help protect pollinators. These practices included modifying spray times for pesticides and minimizing and choosing products with the least toxic active ingredient.

Grower adoption of practices to increase forage and habitat resources for bees was modest; roughly 20% reported using practices that provide floral and nesting resources to attract diverse pollinators.

The research team will be conducting a follow-up survey in winter 2016-2017 in California and other states surveyed in 2015 (including Michigan, Oregon, and Florida) to continue learning about pollination management practices.

Survey Report on Florida Blueberry Growers’ Pollination Practices Released

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                         Photo: Emily May

The Integrated Crop Pollination Project has released the summary report from its 2015 survey of Florida blueberry growers’ pollination practices. Earlier this month, the project team published the summary from a parallel survey of Michigan blueberry growers.

The survey of 69 blueberry growers in five Florida counties (Alachua, Jackson, Lake, Marion, and Polk) delved into growers’ goals for pollination management, networks of information sources about pollination, and past, current, and potential future practices related to managing and supporting pollinators on blueberry farms.

Relative to Michigan blueberry growers, Florida growers were slightly less likely to report using managed honey bees for pollination (61% of Florida growers buy, rent, or own managed honey bees, compared with 79% of Michigan growers). However, Florida blueberry growers reported more widespread use of managed bumble bees for pollination, both alone and in combination with honey bees, than Michigan growers.

Just over half of Florida blueberry growers reported using reduced-risk pesticide practices to help protect pollinators. By comparison, the previous summary report from Michigan blueberry indicated extensive adoption of practices that minimize the risk of pesticides to bees, with over 90% of surveyed Michigan blueberry growers reporting changing the timing of pesticide and fungicide applications to minimize the risk to bees (e.g. spraying at night) and choosing active ingredients with less toxicity to bees.

The research team will be conducting a follow-up survey in winter 2016-2017 in Florida and other states surveyed in 2015 (including Michigan, Oregon, and California) to continue learning about pollination management practices.

Survey of Michigan Blueberry Growers’ Pollination Practices Shows Widespread Adoption of Reduced-Risk Pesticide Practices

ICP_MIBlueberry_SurveyReport_thumbnailThe Integrated Crop Pollination Project has released a summary report from its 2015 survey of Michigan blueberry growers’ pollination practices.

The survey of 240 blueberry growers delved into growers’ goals for pollination management, networks of information sources about pollination, and past, current, and potential future practices related to managing and supporting pollinators on blueberry farms. Researchers also surveyed growers in other crops and regions around the United States, allowing them to draw comparisons between pollination practices in different growing areas.

“We saw significant differences in use of pesticide practices that support diverse pollinators between Michigan and Florida blueberry growers, with Michigan having much higher rates of adoption,” says Dr. Kelly Garbach (Loyola University Chicago), the lead author of the report. “A large proportion of Michigan growers choose active ingredients that are less harmful to bees and time pesticide applications to minimize impacts on bees. This suggests the success of extension and outreach efforts [on pesticide risks to bees] in Michigan.”

The research team will be conducting a follow-up survey in late 2016-early 2017 to continue learning about pollination management practices in the areas surveyed in 2015. “We’re especially interested in understanding factors that can help catalyze use of on-farm habitat—like planting flowering or flowering cover crops—that can support pollinators,” says Dr. Garbach.

 

2015 Michigan Blueberry Grower Survey Highlights:

Information sources: Michigan blueberry growers get information on crop pollination from a variety of sources. Growers reported that beekeepers, other growers, and Michigan State University Extension were the primary groups they communicated with about pollination management. Personal relationships provide key support for learning about pollination management, in addition to personal experience and written materials – especially extension publications.

Pollination Goals: Michigan blueberry growers’ most important goal for crop pollination was achieving consistent, reliable crop pollination. It may, therefore, be useful to frame grower-oriented communication about pollinator friendly farming practices in terms of this goal.

Managed pollinators: The majority of Michigan blueberry growers (71%)  reported buying or renting managed bees, with most growers using managed honey bees. Some growers also used combinations of honey bees and wild bees or managed bumble bees, or managed bumble bees alone. The average honey bee stocking rate for 2014 was 2 hives per acre and growers paid $52.30 ± $1.30 per hive. Growers with large farms were more likely to buy or rent bees than small growers.

Attracting diverse pollinators: In addition to renting or buying honey bees, growers reported using practices that provided floral and nesting resources for pollinators (e.g. maintaining natural habitat, using cover crops, and leaving areas of reduced tillage–which can help support nesting habitat).  Practices to attract diverse pollinators—including planting flowering cover crops, planting wildflowers along field edges, leaving fallows, and retaining natural habitat—were thought to improve crop pollination. However, weeds, pests, and costs were reported as concerns. Addressing these benefits and concerns may be useful to support growers’ adoption of practices to attract diverse pollinators.

Pesticide management: There is widespread use of pest management practices designed to minimize impacts on bees, including modifying the timing of pesticide and fungicide applications to minimize impacts on bees and making an effort to choose active ingredients that have the least impact on bees. This suggests that pesticide impact messages have been highly visible.

 

For more information, read the summary report here.

Five New Articles on Pollinators from Penn State Extension

Members of Penn State’s Center for Pollinator Research, including Project ICP researcher Dr. Shelby Fleischer, and the Penn State Extension Vegetable and Small Fruit Team have collaborated to produce a five part series of Extension articles describing pollinators, pollinator threats and on-farm conservation strategies, including two articles on pesticide stewardship for pollinators. The series was published between February-October 2015.

To learn more, check out the articles here:

StudentFarm_Peponapis_Jun10_45Squash bees (Peponapis pruinosa). Photo: Katharina Ullmann.

New Guide to Bees of the Great Lakes

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Project ICP researchers Dr. Jason Gibbs and Dr. Rufus Isaacs (Michigan State University) have published a new guide to the bees of the Great Lakes region and the wildflowers that support them. The pocket-sized guide is designed to help farmers and gardeners identify the many species of bees inhabiting Michigan and the rest of the Great Lakes region. The guide also provides information on the preferred growing conditions, flower characteristics, attractiveness to pollinators, and best companion plants for specific native plants that can be used in farms, gardens and urban landscapes to help conserve diverse Great Lakes bee communities.

Gardening and Landscape Practices for Nesting Native Bees

Project ICP research partner Dr. Jim Cane (USDA-ARS, Logan, UT; Utah State University) has published a new four-page guide to supporting nesting bees in your garden or yard. The fact sheet describes simple landscaping and gardening practices that can provide essential nesting needs of native bees, including ground nesting, twig and stem nesting, and wood nesting bees.

The guide can be found at: https://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/factsheet/ENT-175-15.pdf.

IMG_5136Mason bees (Osmia sp.) entering a nesting block. Photo: Emily May.

New MSU Extension Bulletin: Minimizing Pesticide Risk to Bees in Fruit Crops

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Project ICP partners Emily May, Rufus Isaacs, and Julianna Wilson (Michigan State University), have authored a Michigan State University Extension guide, “Minimizing Pesticide Risk to Bees in Fruit Crops,” which outlines pesticide risks to bees on fruit farms and suggests best management strategies to minimize these risks. The document includes toxicity ranking tables for insecticides and fungicides registered in Michigan fruit crops to allow growers, extension educators and crop consultants to make informed decisions about pest management and bee protection.

Suggested best management practices for minimizing pesticide risk to bees include:

  1. Develop and implement a pollination contract with your beekeeper.
  2. Use integrated pest management (IPM) to reduce the need for sprays.
  3. Avoid pesticide sprays during crop bloom.
  4. Apply pesticides after sunset or before sunrise, or when air temperature is below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Select the least toxic pesticides and formulations when possible.
  6. Reduce drift onto areas outside crop fields.
  7. Remove flowering weeds from crops before spraying.
  8. Provide bee-friendly habitat away from crops.

 

The guide is available from MSU Extension here.