Integrated crop pollination: Investigating management approaches for resilience
Agricultural ecosystems both rely upon and influence availability of key ecosystem services, including pollination. Crop pollination of high-value specialty fruits and nuts is largely dependent on honey bees (Apis mellifera), yet their future ability to meet crop pollination demands is uncertain and pollinator populations are facing significant declines. While there are strategies that growers may employ to diversify the sources of crop pollination, little is known about which diversification strategies are most effective and how growers chose to adopt (or reject) them. The Integrated Crop Pollination Project addresses this critical knowledge gap by incorporating a quantitative grower survey with on-going field experiments. We distributed the quantitative survey to 3400 specialty crop growers in four U.S. states (California, Florida, Michigan, and Oregon). The survey investigated: pollination management practices; perceived costs, benefits, and risks associated with different strategies; and the role of information networks in adopting innovative pollination management practices.
Survey results include responses from more than 1300 growers; approximately 80% of growers bought or rented pollinators as a primary source of crop pollination. Honey bees served as the primary pollinator for more than three-quarters of the responding growers. A small proportion of growers had diversified practices to attract and retain wild pollinators, such as habitat for mason and bumble bees (Osmia spp. and Bombus spp.). There was a significant, positive association between growers with diversified pollination management practices and accessing information from multiple sources. However, there was considerable variation in the most important information sources and representation of key roles (e.g., growers, commercial suppliers, research/extension) in information networks across crop types and growing regions. The most frequently identified potential benefits of diversification strategies included enhanced pollination, economic return, and crop quality. The most frequently identified potential costs included lack of space for diversification practices, as well as potentially increasing the risk of pests and weeds. Taken together, these data can help support development and delivery of context-specific Integrated Crop Pollination recommendations. By strategically targeting established information networks, the project team aims to communicate approaches to effectively and economically diversify sources of pollination in specialty crop agroecosystems.