Pollination is essential to the production of many fruit, nut, and vegetable crops. Most crops are primarily pollinated by a combination of managed and wild bees. Growers need pollination strategies that can reliably deliver pollination and ensure quality, marketable yields.
The Integrated Crop Pollination Project, a national research project funded by the USDA-NIFA Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) to study crop pollination across North America, has released a new video explaining integrated crop pollination. Integrated crop pollination is an integrative approach to pollination management that can help specialty crop growers achieve reliable, economical crop pollination.
The video explains the two main approaches of integrated crop pollination: diversifying sources of pollination (managed honey bees, alternative managed bees, and wild bees) and using farm management practices that support pollinators.
Diversifying sources of pollination: Having more than one type of pollinator working crop flowers can help maximize the pollination of a crop. Different types of pollinators may fly at different times during the day, different times during crop bloom, and/or under different weather conditions. Large-bodied bees, such as bumble bees, can fly in rainier and cooler conditions than smaller bees, including the European honey bee. These large bees can help manage the risk of poor pollination under cool, rainy bloom conditions.
Farm management practices that support pollinators: Using management practices that support pollinators can help build the diverse wild bee communities that contribute to reliable, economical pollination of crops. The three primary needs of all bees are food (or nectar, pollen, and water), shelter (or nesting habitat), and a safe environment protected from pesticide exposure. Growers can ensure these needs are met by providing forage and nesting habitat for bees in protected areas around the farm, by using horticultural practices that support pollinators – for example, cover cropping with species that provide flowering resources for bees – and by taking steps to reduce pesticide risk to pollinators.