Skip to main content
ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Bee Research Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #375809

Research Project: Managing Honey Bees Against Disease and Colony Stress

Location: Bee Research Laboratory

Title: Excluding flying insects during flowering does not affect soybean yield

item Blanco, Carlos
item HERNANDEZ, GERARDO - Guanajuato Campus Of Cinvestav
item Corona, Miguel
item CONOVER, KEVIN - University Of Maryland

Submitted to: Southwestern Entomologist
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/13/2020
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: The effect of insect pollination on the yield of soybeans has been controversial. There are several variables that can account for different results, including different varieties of soybean and climatic conditions. In this study, we used a simple but effective experimental design that excludes insects from soybean plants during their flowering period. We also ensured that pollinators had full access to soybean flowers by placing multiple honey bee colonies close to the focal and control soybean fields. Our results showed no differences in soybean yields between covered or uncovered plants, indicating that neither honey bees nor other insects normally pollinate soybean on the conditions tested.

Technical Abstract: The possible role of pollinators enhancing soybean production has been an ongoing topic of study. The effect of flower-visitation in this self-pollinated crop, especially by honey bees, has resulted on no benefit increasing soybean yield, or at times a significant impact on grain production, differences that may be due to the influence of multiple field conditions variables. In this study, we used an experimental design that excludes insects from soybean plants during their ~20 day flowering period. Our results indicate that he number of pods per plant, seeds per pod, and grain yield were not different in plants covered with a mesh that prevented insect visitation to the flowers, compared with adjacent not covered soybean plants. These one-season studies show that despite of a high number of active honey bees hives 25-50 meters away from the evaluated soybean plants, these insects rarely entered the fields, and those that did, spent no time foraging, even when more than 5 million soybean flowers per hectare were available at a very short flying distance from honey bee hives.