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
Insect Control
September 6, 2017
Vegetable Pest Populations Can Soar in High Tunnels, Study Shows
High tunnels alone are not enough to control pest populations, the study shows. To control pest levels, growers need to take other steps that allow ventilation while screening crops, and supporting natural predators. Read More
Fruits
September 5, 2017
Organic Fruit Sales Surge 12%
Organic vegetable sales rose 6%, as consumer demand is still going strong. Read More
Production
August 30, 2017
Houweling’s Tomatoes Grows Produce with Mastery Under Glass
Houweling’s Tomatoes exceeds industry standards for locally grown produce while pioneering innovative technologies that improve sustainability. Read More
Citrus
August 23, 2017
Varroa Mite Researchers Talk High Infestations in Bee Colonies
In 2016, The New York State Beekeeper Tech Team (which is attached to Cornell University’s Dyce Lab Beekeeping Resources) found that Read More
fine-tuning an orange
Citrus
August 18, 2017
How Florida Growers are Fine-Tuning Citrus Fertility
Some are tweaking nutrition programs to focus on root health along with foliar applications. Read More
Citrus
August 17, 2017
How Wicked Will Winter 2018 Be in the U.S.?
The 200th edition of the Farmers’ Almanac reveals wide-ranging weather patterns and events that would require everything from shovels to shorts. Read More
Production
August 9, 2017
Greenhouse Vegetable Production Systems for Every Grower
From fully automated deepwater culture to vertical growing systems, growers and manufacturers weigh in on tools for producing top-quality vegetables and greens. Read More
Fruits
August 7, 2017
Inaugural Organic Grower Summit Attendee Registration Now Open
Only 22 booths remain for exhibitors at the trade show, which is scheduled for Dec. 13 and 14 in Monterey, CA. Read More
Crop Protection
August 2, 2017
Report: 90% of NY Beehives Had Varroa Mites in 2016
Cornell University's NYS Beekeeper Tech Team recent report also shows most hives are infected with Deformed Wing Virus (DWV), a disease linked to the mites. Read More
Organic
July 19, 2017
4 Challenges Large Operations Face in Organic Vegetable Production
Organic vegetable production in Monterey County has evolved over the past 25 years. It was once the domain of small- Read More
Citrus
July 12, 2017
USDA Pulls 8 Products from Approved Organic Production List
After a few months of speculation, the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service has published its Sunset 2017 final rule on approved products for organic production and handling. Read More
Fruits
July 9, 2017
USDA Invests $6.8 Million for Pollinator Health
Projects focus on colony losses, pollinator habitats, and increase pollinator populations. Read More
Citrus
July 5, 2017
Give Tech Companies the Expertise They Lack [Opinion]
One problem with many agricultural technology start up companies is that no one on staff has a farming background. That's easy enough to fix. Volunteer your expertise. Read More
Citrus
July 5, 2017
Want Labor-Saving Harvest Equipment? Collaborate.
Innovation and technology start with growers working with their peers and manufacturers. Read More
Berries
July 1, 2017
Water is a Must for Berry Crops
As the adage goes, “ability is availability” as so it goes for water. Read More
The Latest
Citrus
September 7, 2017
Improving Water Management: Can Silicon …
Though very much-needed, technological solutions must be cost-effective and industry appropriate. Read More
Production
September 6, 2017
Companion Crops Lower Inputs and Increas…
An age-old production method often associated with Native Americans has been validated by study results from the Texas A&M AgriLife Read More
Insect Control
September 6, 2017
Vegetable Pest Populations Can Soar in H…
High tunnels alone are not enough to control pest populations, the study shows. To control pest levels, growers need to take other steps that allow ventilation while screening crops, and supporting natural predators. Read More
Production
August 30, 2017
Houweling’s Tomatoes Grows Produce with …
Houweling’s Tomatoes exceeds industry standards for locally grown produce while pioneering innovative technologies that improve sustainability. Read More
Citrus
August 23, 2017
Varroa Mite Researchers Talk High Infest…
In 2016, The New York State Beekeeper Tech Team (which is attached to Cornell University’s Dyce Lab Beekeeping Resources) found that Read More
Production
August 9, 2017
Greenhouse Vegetable Production Systems …
From fully automated deepwater culture to vertical growing systems, growers and manufacturers weigh in on tools for producing top-quality vegetables and greens. Read More
Crop Protection
August 2, 2017
Report: 90% of NY Beehives Had Varroa Mi…
Cornell University's NYS Beekeeper Tech Team recent report also shows most hives are infected with Deformed Wing Virus (DWV), a disease linked to the mites. Read More
Organic
July 19, 2017
4 Challenges Large Operations Face in Or…
Organic vegetable production in Monterey County has evolved over the past 25 years. It was once the domain of small- Read More
Citrus
July 12, 2017
USDA Pulls 8 Products from Approved Orga…
After a few months of speculation, the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service has published its Sunset 2017 final rule on approved products for organic production and handling. Read More
Fruits
July 9, 2017
USDA Invests $6.8 Million for Pollinator…
Projects focus on colony losses, pollinator habitats, and increase pollinator populations. Read More
Citrus
July 5, 2017
Give Tech Companies the Expertise They L…
One problem with many agricultural technology start up companies is that no one on staff has a farming background. That's easy enough to fix. Volunteer your expertise. Read More
Citrus
July 5, 2017
Want Labor-Saving Harvest Equipment? Col…
Innovation and technology start with growers working with their peers and manufacturers. Read More
Irrigation
June 28, 2017
Robert Sakata Talks About Water
The Colorado grower discusses how water issues have changed which crops they grow where, and raises the idea of leasing water rights during droughts replacing crop income. Read More
Citrus
June 21, 2017
Study Suggests Modern Beekeeping Gives V…
Parasite has adapted, thrived with colonies in modern hives. Read More
More Vegetables
June 21, 2017
Variety Specs | Production Tips: Pumpkin…
Each month, American Vegetable Grower® will offer growing tips on specific varieties, supplied by the breeder or distributor. This month, Read More
Citrus
June 21, 2017
Storm Runoff May Recharge Aquifers and Y…
A new study hints that tapping into storm water during dry years does more than increase water table levels. Read More
Apples & Pears
June 19, 2017
Bee-ware: New Resources Released for Nat…
New videos, webinars available during week-long observance. Read More
Irrigation
June 7, 2017
Managing Pivot Irrigation in Drought Are…
Navajo Agricultural Products Industry's Crop Manager Amanda Kerr shares her method to ensure the operation is always as prepared as possible for a drought. Read More