Promoting Pollinators and Other Beneficial Insects Through Bio-Oil Production
North Central Agricultural Research Laboratory
Project Number: 5447-21220-005-09
Start Date: Sep 01, 2012
End Date: Sep 30, 2015
The long-term goal of this project is to develop best management practices for biofuel production systems in the Northwestern Corn Belt (NCB) that actively and purposefully promote populations of beneficial insects, especially pollinators and crop pest predators. Nearly one-third of the nation’s honey bee colonies reside in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota, yet these and many other beneficial insects are limited in this region by the low abundance and diversity of food resources in spring and autumn. Consequently, supporting objectives of this long-term goal are to: (1) document and compare the basic flowering phenology of a wide variety of NCB-adapted oilseed crops of known economic value with the intent of expanding the availability and diversity of pollen and nectar from April to November; (2) develop management protocols that extend flowering times, especially in spring and autumn; (3) establish indices of rotational compatibility of spring-, summer-, and autumn-flowering oilseed crops with standard biofuel crops, including corn, soybean, and switchgrass; (4) certify beneficial insect use of oilseed floral and vegetative resources; (5) determine beneficial insect community assemblages; and (6) decipher predatory insect spillover benefits for adjacent rotational crops, especially as influenced by habitat edges.
Our research will design and test best management practices for economically and agriculturally rational biofuel crop rotations appropriate for northern states. Management practices will be optimized based on their effects on profitability and beneficial insects. This project will diversify the range of biofuel crops available for producers and simultaneously enhance environmental quality for beneficial insects. Specifically, the project will (i) integrate a suite of high-value oilseed crops, selected based on their temporal production of floral resources from April to November, into rotations involving traditional biofuel crops (corn, soybean, switchgrass) and examine their profitability; (ii) identify the diversity and relative abundance of pollinator communities that are associated with each rotation and examine the effects of diversification on pollinator health; and (iii) document spillover effects produced by diverse rotations on natural enemies of pests in adjacent bioenergy crops.