A growing number of specialty crop growers are using alternative managed bees, including the cavity-nesting blue orchard bee (Osmia lignaria), to supplement or replace managed honey bee pollination of their crops. Researchers on the Integrated Crop Pollination project found that using blue orchard bees in addition to honey bees for California almond pollination improved almond nut set.
A new video released this week from Project ICP walks through the main steps to managing blue orchard bees (BOBs for short) for commercial-scale almond pollination.
Following a brief animated overview of the life cycle of the blue orchard bee, the video provides more detailed information on acquiring, managing, sanitizing, and propagating these mason bees.
The main steps to managing BOBs for almond pollination covered in the video:
Many specialty crop growers are looking to incorporate pollinator habitat plantings on their farms to support bees, crop pollination, and yields. A new video series produced by the Integrated Crop Pollination Project will guide farmers through the process of establishing new flowering habitat for bees, from selecting and preparing a good site to seeding and maintaining a successful, diverse, weed-free stand of wildflowers.
The first video in the series, “Pollinator Habitat 101,” provides background information on bee habitat requirements and highlights different options for integrating flowering plants on farms, including field border plantings, riparian buffers, filter strips, and flowering cover crops.
The second video in the series, “Five Steps to Success for Establishing Perennial Wildflower Plantings for Pollinators,” goes into more detail on the step-by-step process for establishing a bloom-rich, long-lived perennial wildflower strip or meadow. The video emphasizes the need for careful weed eradication before and after seeding to control highly competitive weed species and allow the native wildflower seeds to germinate and persist.
Future videos in this series will include more detailed overviews of different site preparation and seeding techniques. Visit the Integrated Crop Pollination Project’s Youtube page for playlists of videos about bees, pollination, and pollinator habitat. To learn more about planting wildflowers to support crop pollinators and other strategies to support bees and the pollination they provide, visit http://www.projecticp.org.
This research is supported by the USDA-NIFA Specialty Crop Research Initiative Coordinated Agricultural Project (Award #2012-51181-20105). These videos were produced on behalf of the Integrated Crop Pollination Project by Emily May and Katharina Ullmann (The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation).
Michigan State University AgBioResearch recently profiled Dr. Nikki Rothwell, coordinator of the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center, Project ICP researcher working on cherry pollination, and award-winning cidermaker.
Dr. Rothwell has been at the MSU research center since 2004, and works closely with the local grower community to develop new areas of research and communicate research results. “I’m lucky that I got to come home to Michigan, and I get to work at a place like MSU that’s so supportive,” Rothwell said. “We have a strong backing from growers who are really invested in our research. We are in a position to assist them because of MSU’s commitment and the industry’s support, and as an extension professional, you can’t ask for more.”
The Integrated Crop Pollination Project held a Pollination Forum for the general public at Michigan State University on November 28th. Speakers included keynote speaker Marla Spivak (University of Minnesota), as well as Project ICP research and outreach partners Theresa Pitts-Singer (USDA-ARS), Kelly Garbach (Point Blue Conservation Science), Mace Vaughan (The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation), and Rufus Isaacs (Michigan State University).
Public radio station WKAR interviewed Prof. Rufus Isaacs (MSU), the Principle Investigator of the Integrated Crop Pollination Project! In this interview Rufus talks about his research and how to support crop pollinators.
Project ICP researcher Kelly Garbach (Point Blue Conservation Science, formerly Loyola University-Chicago), in collaboration with Geoffrey Morgan (Carnegie Mellon University), has developed two publicly-available, open-source programs for anonymizing and cleaning up data from large surveys.
As part of the Integrated Crop Pollination project, Dr. Garbach conducted a multi-state survey of specialty crop growers in collaboration with the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.
“Analyzing the survey data was an exciting challenge,” says Garbach. “We had to keep the data totally anonymous, while keeping enough detail to analyze key network connections.” These connections include information sharing in the agricultural community, including sharing information about pollinator management among growers, extension specialists, beekeepers and others.
Garbach and Morgan developed two open-source tools to tackle this challenge, called “Anonymizer” and “Linker.” Both are described in more depth in this new white paper.
See the quick start guides Garbach and Morgan developed for Anonymizer and Linker for an overview of what these computational tools can do and step-by-step instructions for using them. Click here to access the free downloadable program files from GitHub.
Read more about results from the Project ICP/USDA-NASS pollination survey in different US crops and regions in these blog posts:
“MSU Today” published a story with an overview of what researchers on the Integrated Crop Pollination Project are learning about specialty crop pollination in the United States. Read the full story here.
Highbush blueberries grown in different regions of North America are pollinated by markedly different communities of bees, with economically important pollination deficits in blueberries grown outside of the natural range of its wild relatives, according to a new study published today in PLOS ONE. The team of Project ICP researchers, led by Jason Gibbs at Michigan State University and Elizabeth Elle at Simon Fraser University, found that in Michigan, where highbush blueberries have been commercially grown for over seventy years, the bee community visiting blueberries had greater species richness and diversity than in British Columbia, where blueberry was introduced relatively recently.
The most important blueberry pollinators differed between the two surveyed regions: in British Columbia, the primary predictor of pollination service was the abundance of wild bumble bees, while in Michigan honey bee abundance was the main driver of blueberry pollination.
The yields from the surveyed commercial blueberry fields in Michigan were generally close to maximum estimated yields (around 94% of the maximum), but pollination deficits in British Columbia meant that fields in that region averaged 38% lower yields than the estimated maximum yield given full pollination. The authors suggest that the lower abundance of pollinators in British Columbia blueberries relative to Michigan may be due in part to a lower proportion of semi-natural area in the landscape surrounding blueberry fields in that region compared with Michigan. Semi-natural habitats provide bees with flowering and nesting resources that can boost their populations in farm landscapes.
How can we help bees and ensure that farmers continue to get consistent, reliable pollination? A new video produced by the Integrated Crop Pollination Project explores one solution that’s gaining support around the world: adding wildflowers to field edges. Planting flowers, especially before and after crops bloom, is a key way in which farmers can ensure their crop pollinators stay healthy through the season and produce abundant offspring for the next year.
New research suggests that wild bees may be declining in many of the same areas where the acreage of pollinator-dependent crops, including many fruits, nuts, and vegetables, is increasing. The loss of natural areas that provide food and shelter for bees in both agricultural and urban settings is likely to be the most important contributor to these declines. Planting flowers on farms, whether in the form of wildflower strips, meadows, or flowering hedgerows, is a direct strategy for countering the loss of these natural areas in farm landscapes.
To learn more about planting wildflowers to support crop pollinators and other strategies to support bees and the pollination they provide, visit http://www.projecticp.org. This research is supported by the USDA-NIFA Specialty Crop Research Initiative Coordinated Agricultural Project (Award #2012-51181-20105). The video was produced on behalf of the Integrated Crop Pollination Project by Emily May and Katharina Ullmann (The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation).