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
Drip Irrigation
April 28, 2016
Farm Demonstration Visits To Focus On Soil Health
California farmers will share practical experiences in “growing” healthy soil. Read More
field shot the Produce Peddler Colorado
Farm Marketing
April 28, 2016
Small Producers Talk Profits
Four growers from across the country discuss the importance of knowing your customer, how to handle money, and being the face of your farm. Read More
(Photo credit: USDA)
April 27, 2016
It’s Time To Rethink Grade Standards For Produce
Food waste is largely dictated by limiting produce standards. Read More
Mesh bags tied to the trellis can be used as slings to support the fruit as they ripen.   
Photo courtesy of Jett Lewis
April 25, 2016
How To Maintain Proper Irrigation And Pest Control In High Tunnel Melon Production
Fine-tune your irrigation practices, know which pests target melon crops, and make sure the inside of your tunnel doesn’t get too hot. Read More
Researchers grew the colored bell peppers in an unheated high-tunnel at the experiment station’s Woodman Horticultural Research Farm. Photo credit:  University of New Hampshire
More Vegetables
April 25, 2016
High Tunnel Bell Pepper Trial Highlights Varieties Best Suited For An Unheated Environment
Colored bell peppers have the potential to be a profitable alternative crop. Read More
field shot the Produce Peddler Colorado
April 25, 2016
FDA Extends Comment Period On Using Raw Manure As Fertilizer
The assessment will be designed to evaluate the risk that the use of raw manure as fertilizer on produce crops may pose for consumer health.   Read More
Here is a row of mature almond trees that just encountered the Slasher (in background) from IronWolf Manufacturing.
April 22, 2016
Whole Orchard Recycling Could Improve Soil Fertility
A giant new machine gobbles up whole trees and spits out the chunks, which eventually get worked back into the soil. Read More
The Latest
Farm Management
May 2, 2016
USDA Unveils New Urban Agriculture Toolk…
For urban farmers and agribusiness entrepreneurs, the toolkit is an electronic document that helps users navigate more than 70 resources, including technical assistance and financing opportunities. Read More
April 28, 2016
Farm Demonstration Visits To Focus On So…
California farmers will share practical experiences in “growing” healthy soil. Read More
April 25, 2016
How To Maintain Proper Irrigation And Pe…
Fine-tune your irrigation practices, know which pests target melon crops, and make sure the inside of your tunnel doesn’t get too hot. Read More
April 15, 2016
New Video Takes An Inside Look At Pollin…
The European honeybee gets all the attention, but there are more than 3,600 species of wild bees in North America. Read More
April 12, 2016
App Helps Protect Bees In The Field
Oregon State University publication recommends best practices for managing pesticide applications to protect bees via a smartphone app. Read More
April 8, 2016
Irrigation Options For Protected Culture
If you produce in the field and plan to add a greenhouse, or if you plan to switch from ornamentals to vegetables in protected culture, understand the systems involved and know your water source. Read More
April 7, 2016
How To Determine The Right Greenhouse St…
When switching crops or adding a greenhouse to produce vegetables, experts say to start out small when investing in facilities. Read More
April 6, 2016
New Technology May Help Crops Survive Dr…
Research from Purdue University may be valuable to commercial growers and useful for many species of plants. Read More
March 8, 2016
Tractors & Planters: Maximum Reliabi…
Manufacturers and suppliers discuss how they are fine-tuning today’s equipment to meet your needs. Read More
March 1, 2016
Media’s Ignorance Of Farming [Opinion]
A recent news story on the ag business highlights the fact growers should try to educate consumer news reporters. Read More
Farm Management
February 24, 2016
New Pollination Management Video Release…
Integrated Crop Pollination Project video intended for growers of specialty crops. Read More
Crop Protection
February 23, 2016
Extension Publications Available For Veg…
Three publications from Purdue University Extension for commercial growers cover production, trials, and diseases, including tomato disease management in greenhouses. Read More
February 10, 2016
Get Your Sprayer Ready For Spring
Cleaning equipment, checking for damages, and ensuring proper calibration should be standard procedure before the season begins. Read More
February 4, 2016
Can Olive Oil Grease Skids For Florida’s…
Researchers, interested growers help launch new industry. Read More
February 2, 2016
EPA Releases List Of Products Labeled Fo…
Agency gives recommendations on products to protect hives against parasites. Read More
Farm Management
February 1, 2016
Economics 101: Focus On Being Efficient …
An expert from Purdue University says use the latest technology to improve data collection and make investments to increase productivity while paying attention to costs. Read More
Farm Management
January 31, 2016
Organic Vegetable Farm Combines The Righ…
The business model of Coveyou Farms in Michigan has allowed the operation to be sustainable and profitable in a challenging market. Read More
January 27, 2016
Bee Gene Bank To Preserve Genetic Divers…
Researchers are developing long-term storage techniques for honeybees, including creating a way to revive frozen embryos. Read More
[gravityform id="62" title="false" description="false"]