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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Morris, Minnesota » Soil Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #304572

Research Project: Enhancing Cropping System Sustainability Through New Crops and Management Strategies

Location: Soil Management Research

Title: Flowering dynamics and pollinator visitation of oilseed echium (Echium plantagineum)

Author
item Eberle, Carrie
item Forcella, Frank
item Gesch, Russell - Russ
item Weyers, Sharon
item Peterson, Dean
item Eklund, James - Jim

Submitted to: PLOS ONE
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/7/2014
Publication Date: 11/26/2014
Publication URL: http://handle.nal.usda.gov/10113/59994
Citation: Eberle, C.A., Forcella, F., Gesch, R.W., Weyers, S.L., Peterson, D.H., Eklund, J.J. 2014. Flowering dynamics and pollinator visitation of oilseed echium (Echium plantagineum). PLoS One. 9(11):e113556. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0113556.

Interpretive Summary: Echium is an alternative oilseed crop in the Upper Midwest that provides floral resources to pollinators. Its seed oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and is desired highly by the cosmetic and health industry. We examined flowering time, pollinator visits, and seed yield in a planting date study over three years in western Minnesota. Seeds were sown in field plots in spring (early-sown) or early summer (late-sown). Echium started flowering 41 to 55 days after sowing, and flowered for 34 to 70 days. Flowers attracted large numbers of insects throughout the entire flowering period. Honey bees represented about 50% of all insect visitors. Early-sown echium produced maximum seed yields of 750 kg ha-1. We concluded that echium in Minnesota can flower as soon as mid June, provide abundant floral resources for insects and honey bees for up to two months, and produce seed yield profits that can rival those of corn. These results will benefit Midwestern beekeepers, environmental groups concerned with pollinators, specialty seed industry, specialty crop growers, specialty oil processors, and the personal care product industry.

Technical Abstract: Echium (Echium plantagineum L.) is an alternative oilseed crop in summer-wet temperate regions that provides floral resources to pollinators. Its seed oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as stearidonic acid, which is desired highly by the cosmetic industry. We examined flowering dynamics, pollinator visits, and seed yield in a planting date study over three years in western Minnesota, USA. Seeds were sown in field plots in spring (early-sown) or early summer (late-sown), and flower abundance, pollinator visitation, and seed yields were recorded. Initial flowering commenced 41 to 55 d after sowing, and anthesis duration (first flowering to harvest) was 34 to 70 d. Flowers attracted large numbers of honey bees (Apis mellifera L.), as many as 35 per minute of observation, which represented about 50% of all insect visitors. Early-sown echium produced maximum seed yields of 750 kg ha-1, which were 2-29 times higher than those of late-sown echium. We concluded that echium in Minnesota can flower as soon as mid June, provide abundant floral resources for honey bees for up to two months, and produce seed yield profits that can rival those of corn (Zea mays L.).