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
CitrusCalifornia Unveils $1 Billion Drought Package
March 23, 2015
Governor, legislative leaders, announce $1 billion emergency drought legislation. Read More
CitrusFeed A Bee Campaign Aims To Plant 50 Million Flowers
March 23, 2015
Bayer CropScience announces program to increase forage opportunities for critical pollinators. Read More
drought management; irrigation; water management
FruitsWashington Governor Declares Drought
March 17, 2015
With snowpack at near record lows, Governor Jay Inslee declared a drought on the Olympic Peninsula, on the east side of the central Cascade Mountains including Yakima and Wenatchee, and the Walla Walla region. Read More
CitrusPrecision Agriculture Tools Help Producers Stay On Point
March 16, 2015
Check out three high-tech gadgets designed to keep your farming operation on the right track. Read More
Production8 Tips To Better Manage Vegetable Transplants
March 10, 2015
Advice for transplant production includes recommendations on preventing transplant shock, temperature control, and more. Read More
CitrusPreparing For Agriculture’s Future [Opinion]
March 9, 2015
I got invited to serve on a panel recently that was tasked with judging a series of presentations given by four Read More
CitrusFlorida Politicos Hopeful In Wake Of Comprehensive Water Policy Passage
March 9, 2015
House decision could be first step in providing a long-term solution for protecting one of the state’s most precious resources. Read More
The Latest
CitrusFeed A Bee Campaign Aims To Plant 50 Million Flowers
March 23, 2015
Bayer CropScience announces program to increase forage opportunities for critical pollinators. Read More
Production8 Tips To Better Manage Vegetable Transplants
March 10, 2015
Advice for transplant production includes recommendations on preventing transplant shock, temperature control, and more. Read More
CitrusPreparing For Agriculture’s Future [Opinion]
March 9, 2015
I got invited to serve on a panel recently that was tasked with judging a series of presentations given by four Read More
EquipmentVegetable Growers Highlight Success With Precision Ag T…
March 4, 2015
From prescriptive applications of water and fertilizers to seeders, precision technology has a place in any size operation. Read More
Crop ProtectionSurvey Shows Growers Seek New Strategies To Control Thr…
March 4, 2015
Growers surveyed at the 2015 Southeast Regional Fruit And Vegetable Conference list thrips as major pest concern, and are looking for new technologies to combat pests. Read More
FruitsMaximize Produce Profits By Focusing On Soil Health
February 27, 2015
Cover crops are just one of the ways you can help boost your trees’ and vines’ performance and your bottom line. Read More
Apples & PearsFrom The Road: IFTA Conference Day 4
February 25, 2015
Creating fruiting walls with mechanical hedgers can help increase light interception in the canopy, say researchers and growers. Read More
Apples & PearsOn The Road With IFTA: Conference Day 1
February 21, 2015
Honeycrisp ― and the delicate balance between quality and profitability ― are the preconference workshop focus at this year's IFTA Conference. Read More
CitrusMegadrought In The West Predicted By End Of The Century
February 18, 2015
Lowering greenhouse gases will reduce risk, scientists say. Read More
FruitsSeed Industry Is Breeding A Win-Win For Farmers, Consum…
February 14, 2015
Florida Grower editor Frank Giles says all should marvel at the technology being used to feed the growing world population with healthy produce. Read More
ProductionResearchers Reprogram Plants To Tolerate Drought Condit…
February 10, 2015
An agrochemical used to control late blight of fruit and vegetable crops may help plants survive during a drought. Read More
ProductionHow To Assess The Impact Of Salt On Irrigation Water
February 9, 2015
In the West, growers are often concerned about whether they will have access to a sufficient quantity of water to Read More
Nutrient ManagementCelebrate Soil [Opinion]
February 5, 2015
Highlighting to consumers the importance of having healthy soil to produce your crop is another way to tell the story of ag to the masses. Read More
FruitsHighlights From The Mid-Atlantic Fruit And Vegetable Co…
January 28, 2015
Bio-control use, media literacy, and disease control were just a few of the topics discussed at the convention held in Hershey, PA. Read More
FruitsUSDA Forecast Predicts Normal Water Supply For Parts Of…
January 27, 2015
The Southwest, Sierra Nevada region, and Pacific Northwest are starting the year drier than normal. Read More
FruitsJiffy Pumped To Introduce New Produce Propagation Syste…
January 23, 2015
PreGro concept to make its debut at Fruit Logistica. Read More
CitrusElevated Expectations For UAV Use In Agriculture
January 15, 2015
Uncertainties aside, many believe unmanned aircraft will find a lasting place in farming. Read More
CucurbitsHow To Be Successful Using Grafted Vegetable Plants
January 15, 2015
University of Arizona researcher offers advice on purchasing commercially grafted plants, pitfalls to avoid, and an update on the latest technology. Read More