New Research Targets Plants’ Ability To Attract Pollinators

Two researchers at New Mexico State University’s Agricultural Science Center at Los Lunas have been working together on the New Mexico Pollinator Project, which aims to test native and non-native plants for their ability to attract and retain pollinators at a time when some pollinator populations are under threat.

The pollinator project began in 2010 as a collaborative effort between NMSU and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) Los Lunas Plant Materials Program in response to concerns over Colony Collapse Disorder — a problem that threatens honeybee populations, resulting in economic implications for commercial beekeeping and pollination operations across the nation.

According to USDA statistics, the commercial honeybee population has decreased from 5 million in the 1940s to 2.5 million today. In the U.S., “bee pollination is responsible for more than $15 billion in increased crop value each year,” as stated on the USDA’s website. The problems caused by CCD are so drastic that last month the USDA allocated $8 million to help farmers in five states improve habitat for honeybees.

USDA is researching pathogens, pesticides, parasites, and other environmental stressors that contribute to CCD.

Recent efforts to help the deteriorating populations of pollinators in the country include the memorandum from President Barack Obama on June 20 to establish the Pollinator Task Force, which will develop a strategy to study the health of pollinators, develop affordable and appropriate seed mixes, and establish a public education plan, among other steps, to help in the restoration of pollinators.

“Colony Collapse Disorder is specific to domesticated honeybees, and is especially important in states such as California, which have vast acreages of almond trees and other crops that require insect pollination,” said Tessa Grasswitz, an entomologist working on the pollinator project at NMSU’s Agricultural Science Center at Los Lunas. “In other parts of the country where Colony Collapse Disorder has really affected the honeybees and where they have done the research, they’ve found that in all cases the native bees can pick up the slack as far as plant pollination as long as there is habitat for them once the crops have finished blooming.”

The two Los Lunas-based researchers recognize the seriousness of this issue and its implications for agricultural industries in New Mexico, where important crops such as chile and various fruits might be affected by the lack of pollinators.
To help farmers and others interested in creating a more stable habitat for the state’s pollinators, they have published a list of both native and non-native plants that provide pollen and nectar for native bees, honeybees, and other beneficial insects such as predatory and parasitic wasps.
Another objective of the pollinator project is to educate people about the importance of pollinators as well as the plant species that attract and help them thrive in New Mexico’s climate.

“I have realized the great diversity of native bees we have here, and how they can be as important as honeybees for the pollination of certain crops and native plants,” said David R. Dreesen, agronomist and horticulturist for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service at the USDA-NRCS Los Lunas Plant Materials Center, located at the same facility as NMSU’s Agricultural Science Center at Los Lunas.

Dreesen and Grasswitz have evaluated more than 500 species of plants, including annuals, herbaceous, perennials and woody shrubs, and encourage people to plant native, recommended species to attract pollinators and other beneficial insects.

“We have tried a wide diversity of plant species starting from the Southwest, but also from the Pacific Northwest and California, and it is surprising how many of them will do well in our climate and soils,” Dreesen said.

Grasswitz added that pollinator habitat “needs to provide blooming plants from early spring into summer and on into autumn.”

In addition to the plantings at Los Lunas, in 2010, limited plantings were installed at a rural high school at Reserve, NM, and at the Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area near Belen, NM. A grant obtained in 2011 allowed three more pollinator plantings to be installed at NMSU’s Farmington and Tucumcari agricultural science centers, as well as at a demonstration farm for beginning farmers in Chaparral, NM.

“I have been surprised at the extent to which bees will make use of these kinds of plantings, even in a relatively short time frame,” said Grasswitz. “Year on year, we have seen an increase in the diversity of pollinators at our plot here in Los Lunas, although this could be partly due to the lack of wildflowers in the surrounding rangelands because of the drought.”

Grasswitz added that it is important to remember that bees are part of the larger food chain and are needed for a healthy environment.

“Their decline can have major effects not only on agriculture, but also on natural habitats,” she said.

Source: NMSU news release, by Angela Simental

Topics: , ,

Leave a Reply

Production Stories

IrrigationAlmond Grower Honored For Water Efficiency
November 18, 2014
Ongoing drought highlights the efforts of third-generation Madera County grower Tom Rogers. Read More
Farm ManagementSouth Florida Farmers Going Extra Mile For Everglades Conservation
November 12, 2014
Growers in one of the most unique and regulated areas in the world have exceeded benchmarks in the quest to restore the ‘River of Grass.’ Read More
EquipmentKubota Adds MX5800 Utility Tractor Line
November 11, 2014
The new tractor meets Tier 4 Final emissions standards. Read More
BerriesOrganic Strawberry Research Gets $200,000 Boost From Walmart
November 7, 2014
Scientists from University of Florida and North Carolina A&T forge ahead with studies, seek more grower feedback. Read More
FruitsColorado, Oregon Voters Say No To Labeling GMOs
November 6, 2014
Voters echo past results of California and Washington elections. Read More
NutsPistachio Production Short Course Slated
November 5, 2014
Sessions are based on accepted science and designed for orchard decision makers. Read More
ProductionEnvision A Sustainable Future
November 4, 2014
Find out what you need to do to increase your sustainability efforts and produce vegetables for years to come. Read More

The Latest

EquipmentHighlights From EIMA International In Italy [Slideshow]
November 19, 2014
The 2014 edition of the International Agricultural and Gardening Machinery Exhibition (EIMA) boasted a record number of attendees from 124 countries. Read More
IrrigationAlmond Grower Honored For Water Efficiency
November 18, 2014
Ongoing drought highlights the efforts of third-generation Madera County grower Tom Rogers. Read More
FruitsColorado, Oregon Voters Say No To Labeling GMOs
November 6, 2014
Voters echo past results of California and Washington elections. Read More
NutsPistachio Production Short Course Slated
November 5, 2014
Sessions are based on accepted science and designed for orchard decision makers. Read More
ProductionEnvision A Sustainable Future
November 4, 2014
Find out what you need to do to increase your sustainability efforts and produce vegetables for years to come. Read More
ProductionTactics To Maximize Available Water
November 4, 2014
Follow these 10 tips to help you get the most from your irrigation water. Read More
ProductionDrought Forcing California Growers To Rely On Groundwat…
October 31, 2014
While the state issues curtailments to those with junior rights, growers are increasingly relying on groundwater to irrigate their crop. Read More
PotatoesNew CEO At Black Gold Farms, A Top 100 Grower
October 28, 2014
Eric Halverson takes the reins at the potato operation, while his father Gregg will remain president of the farm’s board of directors. Read More
CitrusEPA Launches Program To Reduce Pesticide Drift
October 22, 2014
The voluntary star-rating program aims to protect people, wildlife and the environment. Read More
CitrusAgriculture, Interior Departments Partner To Measure Co…
October 22, 2014
Goal is to provide science-based information for watershed wellness. Read More
FruitsCalifornia Department Of Food And Agriculture Awards $3…
October 21, 2014
State Water Efficiency And Enhancement Program highlights projects implement irrigation systems that reduce water and energy use. Read More
CitrusNew Jersey Green Industry Council Will Host Pollinator …
October 8, 2014
The New Jersey Green Industry Council’s 2014 Pollinator Summit is an event and issue briefing for everyone who works in Read More
PotatoesNorthwest Potato Crop Value Up 2% From 2012
September 26, 2014
The Idaho, Washington, and Oregon combined potato crop is valued at $1.98 billion for 2013. Read More
CitrusNational Farmers Union Submits Comments On Clean Water …
September 23, 2014
Organization urges other industry groups to submit constructive comments. Read More
IrrigationCalifornia Boosts Local Water Control
September 19, 2014
Governor Jerry Brown signs historic legislation to strengthen local management and monitoring of critical groundwater basins. Read More
EquipmentJohn Deere Announces Changes To 5M Utility Tractors
September 9, 2014
Enhanced operator experience, serviceability, performance, and comfort, are among the new features. Read More
FruitsImproving Water Management Techniques
September 8, 2014
Improving groundwater management and managing salinity are a couple tactics growers can use to cope with the effects of the drought. Read More
Crop ProtectionCover Crop Solutions Offers New Three-Way Cover Crop Mi…
August 13, 2014
A fast-growing cover crop mix needs 45 to 60 days of growth in warm conditions. Read More