Good Fruit Grower

March 15

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photo by rufus isaacs Many wild bees are solitary species that make their nests in the ground. The Andrena bees are important pollinators of many berry and tree fruit crops. They need open patches of well-drained soil for nesting, and sometimes nest in the weed-free strip under the crop. "People are consuming more fruits, vegetables, and nuts, and these all depend on pollination." component of the project will focus on ways to manipulate farm landscapes to support native bee and honeybee populations. The project team also includes commercial pollination suppliers and an advisory committee of stakeholders to provide input and feedback. "It is exciting to receive this funding and to start this project that we expect to benefit the production of these crops that support the health of our nation," Isaacs said at the time the grant was announced. "People are consuming more fruits, vegetables, and nuts, and these all depend on pollination. As demand increases, it will be essential that growers have the tools needed to ensure they can continue to supply this demand." Native bees photo by rufus isaacs photo by theresa pitts-singer Workers at the Isaacs Lab at Michigan State University began working with native bees several years ago. Julianna Tuell (now Julianna Wilson) surveyed blueberry plantations to identify native bees that were working there and where they lived. She found many were groundnesting bees that lived right in the plantations. Blueberries—like other berries— seem to respond well to added pollinators, and most blueberry growers rent honeybees to pollinate, but get a lot of their pollination from native bees, too. Dr. Nikki Rothwell, coordinator of the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station in Traverse City, has The blue orchard bee is wellworked with growers for several years to adapted to pollination of tree establish semimanaged colonies of blue fruit and nut crops. Researchers orchard bees. Nesting materials are proare studying how best to release vided, and growers can determine spring it and whether flowering habitat emergence by keeping nests cold until the near orchards can increase this desired date. bee's reproduction. Dr. David Biddinger at Penn State University, speaking at the Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention in Hershey, Pennsylvania, in January, said that they had surveyed apple growers in Pennsylvania and found that half of them never rented any honeybees but had not suffered any yield penalties at all. Many of them were smaller growers, he said, and many of their orchards were surrounded by nonorchard habitat. "By combining the expertise of many excellent researchers working in crop pollination, we plan to develop and deliver context-specific Integrated Crop Pollination recommendations on how to most effectively harness the potential of native bees for crop pollination," Isaacs said. "We define ICP as the combined use of different pollinator species, habitat augmentation, and crop management practices to provide reliable and economical pollination of crops. "There is a lot that goes into effective crop pollination. Honeybees are the workhorses that get the majority of pollination done in many situations. This project will explore the what and how of pollinator diversification, to provide growers with an economic basis for making decisions about where to spend their pollination dollars." The project has a Web site, —Rufus Isaacs PROJECT objectives F ive specific objectives for the Integrated Crop Pollination project are: Identify economically valuable pollinators and the factors affecting their abundance. Develop habitat management practices to improve crop pollination. Determine performance of alternative managed bees as specialty crop pollinators. Demonstrate and deliver ICP practices for specialty crops. Determine optimal methods for ICP information delivery and measure ICP adoption. Project manager Keith Mason at Michigan State University will manage and standardize data collection across the 15 institutions and crops involved in the ICP project. The crops being studied are cherries, apples, almonds, blueberries, raspberries, squash, and watermelons. Co-project directors are Neal Williams, pollination entomologist, University of California, Davis; Theresa Pitts-Singer, research entomologist, USDA-ARS Pollinating Insects Research Unit, Logan, Utah; Mace Vaughan, pollinator program director, Xerces Society, Portland, Oregon; Kelly Garbach, social scientist at Loyola University; and Taylor Ricketts, ecological economist at the University of Vermont. —R. Lehnert 1 2 3 4 5 photo by rufus isaacs • Bumblebees are highly efficient pollinators of many crops, but their wild colonies live through the whole season. Providing a mix of wildflowers on the farm, such as this goldenrod that blooms in the fall, can provide the muchneeded pollen and nectar for these bees and honeybees that are building their energy for the winter. GOOD FRUIT GROWER March 15, 2013 27

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