Proximity to wildflower strips did not boost crop pollination on small, diversified farms harboring diverse wild bees
Delphia, Casey M.
O'Neill, Kevin M.
Burkle, Laura A.
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The yield of many agricultural crops depends on pollination services provided by wild and managed bees, many of which are experiencing declines due to factors such as reductions in floral resources. Thus, improving pollinator habitat on farmlands using management strategies like planting wildflower strips is vital for wild bee conservation and sustainable crop pollination. Yet, few studies have examined whether and at what spatial scales wildflower strips enhance crop pollination and yields, and most research has been conducted in large-scale commercial agriculture. Therefore, we investigated the effects of wildflower strips on crop pollination on small, diversified farms (i.e., those growing a variety of crop species) where wild bee diversity and abundance is predicted to be comparatively high. Over three years, on four diversified farms in Montana USA, we tested the hypothesis that distance (20, 60, and 180 m) of crops from native perennial wildflower strips planted alongside crop fields affected wild bee visitation, pollination, and yields of squash and sunflower crop plants. We found that distance to wildflower strips did not affect bee visitation or pollination in crops. Squash yield was pollen-limited in the growing season prior to wildflower strip establishment, and in one of the two years after wildflower strip establishment, but proximity to wildflower strips did not influence the magnitude of pollen limitation. Sunflower seed production was not pollen-limited in any year. Our findings demonstrate that even on diverse farms with wildflower strips and a demonstrated high diversity of bees, some crops do not necessarily receive maximum pollination, regardless of distance from the wildflower strips. However, the value of wildflower strips for supporting wild bee diversity, and other ecological or economic benefits, needs consideration for a full understanding of this pollinator habitat management strategy.
Published by Elsevier GmbH on behalf of Gesellschaft für Ökologie. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC- ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/)
Delphia, C. M., O'Neill, K. M., & Burkle, L. A. (2022). Proximity to wildflower strips did not boost crop pollination on small, diversified farms harboring diverse wild bees. Basic and Applied Ecology, 62, 22-32.