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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Managing and Conserving Diverse Bee Pollinators for Sustainable Crop Production and Wildland Preservation

Location: Pollinating Insect-biology, Management, Systematics Research

Title: Integrated crop pollination: Combining strategies to ensure stable and sustainable yields of pollination-dependent crops

Author
item Isaacs, R.
item Williams, N.
item Ellis, J.
item Pitts Singer, Theresa
item Bommarco, R.
item Vaughn, M.

Submitted to: Basic and Applied Ecology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/5/2017
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Meeting the nutritional needs of our growing human population will be increasingly dependent on bees and other pollinators that provide the essential delivery of pollen to crop flowers during bloom. Honey bees have experienced population declines in some regions, and similar changes are evident for some key bumble bee species that pollinate fruit and vegetable crops. Within the context of challenges to crop pollinators and crop production, farm managers require strategies that can reliably provide sufficient pollination to ensure maximum economic return from their pollinator-dependent crops. There are unexploited opportunities to increase yields by managing insect pollination, especially for crops that are partially dependent on insect pollination for crop production. We introduce the concept of Integrated Crop Pollination as a unifying theme under which various strategies supporting crop pollination can be developed, coordinated, and delivered to growers and their advisors. We emphasize combining tactics that are appropriate for the crop’s dependence on pollination by insects that visit the flowers and collect pollen and nectar, including the use of wild and managed bee species, and enhancing the farm environment for pollinators through directed habitat management and pesticide stewardship. This should be done within the economic constraints of the specific farm situation, and so we highlight the need for flexible approaches that can help growers make economically-based ICP decisions using support tools that consider crop value, the yield benefit from adoption of ICP components, and the cost of the practices. Finally, education and the transfer of technology and programs will be essential for helping land managers decide on the most efficient way to apply ICP to their unique situations. Building on experiences in North America and beyond, we aim to provide a broad framework for how crop pollination can guarantee food production and support society’s increasing need for nutritious diets.

Technical Abstract: Meeting the nutritional needs of our growing human population will be increasingly dependent on bees and other pollinators that provide the essential delivery of pollen to crop flowers during bloom. Honey bees have experienced population declines in some regions, and similar changes are evident for some key bumble bee species that pollinate fruit and vegetable crops. Within the context of challenges to crop pollinators and crop production, farm managers require strategies that can reliably provide sufficient pollination to ensure maximum economic return from their pollinator-dependent crops. There are unexploited opportunities to increase yields by managing insect pollination, especially for crops that are partially dependent on insect pollination for fruit set. We introduce the concept of Integrated Crop Pollination as a unifying theme under which various strategies supporting crop pollination can be developed, coordinated, and delivered to growers and their advisors. We emphasize combining tactics that are appropriate for the crop’s dependence on insect-mediated pollination, including the use of wild and managed bee species, and enhancing the farm environment for pollinators through directed habitat management and pesticide stewardship. This should be done within the economic constraints of the specific farm situation, and so we highlight the need for flexible approaches that can help growers make economically-based ICP decisions using support tools that consider crop value, the yield benefit from adoption of ICP components, and the cost of the practices. Finally, education and technology transfer programs will be essential for helping land managers decide on the most efficient way to apply ICP to their unique situations. Building on experiences in North America and beyond, we aim to provide a broad framework for how crop pollination can secure food production and support society’s increasing need for nutritious diets.

Last Modified: 09/25/2017
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