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
Fruits$10 Million Available For California Water Conservation Program
May 19, 2015
Applications for the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) California State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP) are now Read More
CitrusBad Weather Or Not, Preparation Always On Radar For Florida Farmers [Opinion]
May 19, 2015
You cannot prevent a natural disaster from taking everything you have, but you can lessen the blow if and when it happens. Read More
CitrusSave Your Greenhouse Structures From Storms
May 19, 2015
Make sure your protected agriculture components are prepared for whatever may blow this way. Read More
FruitsUSDA To Invest $21M To Help Growers Cope With Drought
May 18, 2015
USDA’s National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will allocate $21 million for growers and ranchers to apply conservation practices in the Read More
BB Hobbs Inc. warehouse in Plant City, FL
CitrusBB Hobbs Bolsters Business In Central Florida
May 18, 2015
Irrigation specialists celebrate opening of new branch warehouse in Plant City. Read More
FertilizerBioWorks Launches New Fertilizer And Biostimulant
May 15, 2015
BioWorks, Inc., launched ON-Gard, a new organic fertilizer and biostimulant. ON-Gard is a 100% plant-derived product with organic nitrogen and Read More
CitrusPointers On How To Save Money, Increase Sprayer Efficiency
May 15, 2015
Using clean water when calibrating a pesticide sprayer and carrying extra nozzles for quick repair of simple problems in the Read More
The Latest
FruitsUSDA To Invest $21M To Help Growers Cope With Drought
May 18, 2015
USDA’s National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will allocate $21 million for growers and ranchers to apply conservation practices in the Read More
CitrusPointers On How To Save Money, Increase Sprayer Efficie…
May 15, 2015
Using clean water when calibrating a pesticide sprayer and carrying extra nozzles for quick repair of simple problems in the Read More
Wes Roan of Lipman Produce talks with participants of FFVA's Spring Regulatory Tour.
CitrusFlorida Farming Show & Tell Earns Regulators’…
May 15, 2015
FFVA's annual Spring Regulatory Tour allows those who write regulations controlling water, crop protection chemicals, food safety, and more an opportunity to see production practices firsthand. Read More
FruitsSoilCalculator Estimates Soil Erosion And Its Cost
May 12, 2015
Agren, Inc., a provider of sustainability technology to agriculture, released a new version of its SoilCalculator application to estimate erosion Read More
NutsProgram Designed To Prevent Bee Colonies From Accidenta…
May 5, 2015
During the past few decades, the loss of pollinators including honey bees, native bees, birds, bats, and butterflies has posed Read More
IrrigationGrowing More With Less Water
May 5, 2015
It’s no secret that water has been under the proverbial spotlight as of late. How much of it is there? Read More
FruitsWhy Soil Health Should Matter To You
May 1, 2015
As growers, even those of you who rely exclusively on hydroponic or artificial growing media, you certainly know the importance Read More
blueberry roots
BerriesHow To Create Fast Growth For New Blueberry Plantings 
April 30, 2015
Avoid slow growth and plant death by maintaining adequate moisture levels. Read More
CitrusBayer CropScience Introduces Healthy Hives 2020 Honey B…
April 29, 2015
Collaboration with honey bee experts will identify tangible actions designed to help improve the health of honey bee colonies in the next five years. Read More
ProductionpH Reducer Certified For Use In Organic Production
April 24, 2015
Growth Products Ltd. announced that pH Reducer has been certified as a Registered Material for Use in Organic Agriculture by Read More
FruitsOverturned Truck Dumps Millions Of Bees On Highway
April 22, 2015
The truck with 448 hives was headed to a farm in Washington. Read More
CitrusFarm Bureau Supports Bill To Halt Controversial WOTUS R…
April 21, 2015
 Legislation would force EPA and the U.S. Army of Engineers to withdraw Waters of the United States proposal. Read More
Golden Rice
CitrusMore Social Commentators Changing Their Views On GMO Cr…
April 15, 2015
Could public opinion be swayed by evolving narration on genetic modification? Read More
FruitsNew Protective Coating Available For Bee Hives
April 14, 2015
Sustainable crop management company Biobest has announced the launch of “Bee-Coat,” a new protective coating for bumblebee hives. It is Read More
HarvestingOptimize Your Asparagus Harvest
March 30, 2015
It is an exciting time of the year when asparagus spears start poking their heads out of the ground. Careful Read More
Apples & PearsHow Will We Sell All These Apples? [Opinion]
March 30, 2015
Apple production is reaching heights that would have been unthinkable two or three decades ago. That's great news for growers — if we can sell them all profitably, Read More
blue orchard bee
Integrated Pest ManagementBlue Orchard Bee Shows Promise As An Alternative Pollin…
March 30, 2015
The native bee Osmia lignaria could soon be a valuable piece of the pollinator mix, especially for smaller almond growers. 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