Researchers to Highlight Advances in Specialty Crop Pollination at Portland Meeting

Many different species of bees pollinate specialty crops, including this bumble bee (Bombus griseocollis) visiting a blueberry flower. PHOTO TAKEN BY Jason Gibbs, postdoctoral scientist at Michigan State University
Many different species of bees pollinate specialty crops, including this bumble bee (Bombus griseocollis) visiting a blueberry flower. PHOTO TAKEN BY Jason Gibbs, postdoctoral scientist at Michigan State University

PORTLAND – Leading scientists from around the country are convening in Portland, Oregon to present research addressing how farmers can improve pollination and increase yields in specialty crops. A symposium, “Broadening the Horizons for Pollination of US Specialty Crops” will take place on Tuesday, November 18 as part of the Entomological Society of America’s annual meeting. Over 2,000 entomologists will meet for five days to compare their latest findings, with many presentations addressing bees and pollination.

Recent honey bee declines due to pests, diseases and Colony Collapse Disorder threaten the billion dollar specialty crop industry. In response, a research team funded by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture is investigating various strategies to ensure reliable and economical pollination.

“This multi-state Integrated Crop Pollination project is exploring different approaches to support pollination on the more than 100 farms where we are working,” said Rufus Isaacs, a professor of entomology and extension specialist at Michigan State University. “These approaches include building wild bee populations and bringing in alternative managed bees that can complement honey bees, all with the aim of ensuring that crops reach their potential yield.”

Eleven members of the project will be presenting at the symposium in Portland. “We wanted to highlight the breadth of our project’s objectives and include examples of both challenges faced and progress made in the first two years of assessing the impacts of wild pollinators, habitat enhancements, and managed alternative pollinators on specialty crop yields,” explained Cory Stanley-Stahr, a postdoctoral scientist at the University of Florida who co-organized the symposium with Theresa Pitts-Singer, a research entomologist with the USDA ARS Pollinating Insects Research Unit in Utah. “We will illustrate how we are developing research-based recommendations not only for how to improve sustainable pollination, but for how to best deliver this information to the stakeholders that need it.”

America’s acreage of some specialty crops is growing; tree fruits and nut acreage increased by 30% over the last thirty years according the USDA Economic Research Service. Many of these crops depend on pollinators, particularly bees.

Each year, berry, vegetable, tree fruit, and nut farmers from across the United States rent honey bee hives to ensure that their crops get pollinated. However, research is showing that alternative managed bees and wild bees can contribute to crop pollination as well.

For more information on the Integrated Crop Pollination project, visit www.projecticp.org. The project is supported by USDA-NIFA’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative.

For a list of symposium presenters and their presentation topics, visit https://esa.confex.com/esa/2014/webprogram/Session21699.html