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
Photo credit: USDA
Citrus
December 1, 2016
Bio Huma Netics App Now Released For Android Smart Phones
App includes foliar application calculators and ability to save application data. Read More
A bell pepper trial in New Hampshire was designed to evaluate  the performance of greenhouse and field pepper varieties in unheated tunnels.  Photo credit: Becky Sideman
More Vegetables
November 30, 2016
Keys To Successful Bell Pepper Production In High Tunnels
Proper water management and pruning strategies can help improve yields. Read More
2012 Yakima,  WA Apple Orchard - Feature
Fruits
November 29, 2016
Orchard Spray Oil Now OMRI Listed
Orchex 796 Orchard Spray Oil can be used on number of tree and nut crops. Read More
Synergy Power LLC has developed a device that has potential to harvest heat from waste in industrial food processing facilities and other applications.
Production
November 29, 2016
Great Lakes Ag-Tech Business Incubator Looks To Expand Reach With New Partnership
The incubator leverages one of the U.S.’s most productive agriculture regions to help develop and nurture ag-tech innovations. Read More
Varroa mites are considered the biggest bee health problem worldwide. Here, a Varroa mite has latched on to the upper-right side of a honeybee's abdomen to feed. (Photo credit: Purdue Agriculture/Tom Campbell)
Fruits
November 28, 2016
Another Species Of Mite Threatens Honeybees
Purdue researchers see a sister species of varroa mite developing ability to parasitize honeybees. Read More
sprayer nozzles
Equipment
November 28, 2016
New Video Series To Enhance Safety And Efficacy of Spray Applications
Videos cover the science behind key topics and best practice recommendations, which include understanding droplet size and spectrum. Read More
Scanning electron micrograph of fresh pollen removed from wax storage cells of honey bee colonies. In choice tests, bees strongly preferred freshly collected pollen over aged pollen. Photo credit: USDA-ARS
Citrus
November 21, 2016
Bacterial Imbalances Can Be Troublesome For Honeybees
A recent study reports that bees given fresh pollen or fresh supplements fared better than bees given pollen or supplements that had first been aged for 21 days. Read More
The Latest
Apples & Pears
December 4, 2016
Easy Tips For Apple Pruning Demonstratio…
Seminar to be presented in both English and Spanish by Penn State University Extension experts. Read More
More Vegetables
November 30, 2016
Keys To Successful Bell Pepper Productio…
Proper water management and pruning strategies can help improve yields. Read More
Production
November 29, 2016
Great Lakes Ag-Tech Business Incubator L…
The incubator leverages one of the U.S.’s most productive agriculture regions to help develop and nurture ag-tech innovations. Read More
Fruits
November 28, 2016
Another Species Of Mite Threatens Honeyb…
Purdue researchers see a sister species of varroa mite developing ability to parasitize honeybees. Read More
Equipment
November 28, 2016
New Video Series To Enhance Safety And E…
Videos cover the science behind key topics and best practice recommendations, which include understanding droplet size and spectrum. Read More
Citrus
November 21, 2016
Bacterial Imbalances Can Be Troublesome …
A recent study reports that bees given fresh pollen or fresh supplements fared better than bees given pollen or supplements that had first been aged for 21 days. Read More
Citrus
November 20, 2016
Partnership Highlights Key Role Bees Pla…
Campaign focuses on role honeybees and beekeepers have pollinating the foods Americans eat. Read More
Equipment
November 14, 2016
New 4×4 Vehicle Offers Four-Passeng…
With increased room in vehicle, additional personnel can be transported to complete tasks on the farm. Read More
Production
November 7, 2016
Trimble Releases New Ag Software Platfor…
The software platform is designed to help growers and crop advisors simplify farm data management and increase productivity and profitability. Read More
Apples & Pears
November 2, 2016
Consider Alternatives To Finished Apple …
While tree availability has been a challenge, you may find other options give you a similar result. Read More
Production
November 1, 2016
Vertical Farming Innovator Urban Crops O…
The Belgium-based company produces tailored growth infrastructures that are turnkey, automated, robotized, and able to be integrated into existing production facilities. Read More
Equipment
October 25, 2016
Agricultural Mechanization: One Theme Of…
The show to be held in Italy will highlight some of the latest spraying, irrigation, and harvesting equipment. Read More
Production
October 12, 2016
Precision Ag Technology Moves Forward Fo…
Startups at Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology focus on tools to contribute to your business. Read More
Leafy Vegetables
October 3, 2016
Options In Lettuce Thinning
The words “precision agriculture” can mean different things to different people. For those producing row crops, it typically has to Read More
Organic
October 2, 2016
Tips For Growers To Manage Top Organic P…
A strong IPM program that combines strategies to build healthy soil is the best line of defense for vegetable growers. Read More
Equipment
September 28, 2016
Small Tractor Sales On The Rebound
Retail sales of tractors under 40 horsepower gained more than 21% last month, while sales of larger tractors continued their double-digit declines. Read More
Fruits
September 27, 2016
Rodale Institute Launches An Organic Far…
A new national organization for organic growers is designed to provide advocacy, the latest research and education, and information-sharing among farmers. Read More
Berries
September 22, 2016
It Behooves Blueberry Growers To Protect…
Placing priority on bee care best practices will ensure sweet success for your crop. Read More