The findings, which will be published in the November/December 2009 issue of Crop Science, offer promise for the use of bumble bee crop pollinators as an alternative to European honey bees, whose populations have recently declined in many areas of the United States.
Red clover, which is grown for forage and as a rotation crop to improve soil, is raised for seed in western Oregon's Willamette Valley. It will not produce seed without pollination, so growers typically place two to five European honey bee hives on each hectare. However, bee diseases, mites, and colony collapse disorder have recently limited availability and resulted in higher costs for hive rentals. Given these changes, an alternative pollinator for red clover seed crops is needed.
Worldwide there are over 200 species of bumble bees; some of whom are known to pollinate red clover. While commercially reared bumble bee species are available to growers elsewhere, they are considered exotic species in Oregon and cannot be introduced into the state. This leaves Oregon growers dependent on naturally occurring populations of bumble bees as pollinators. However, there is currently no information on the pollination efficiency of native bumble bee species.
Through funding from the Clover Commission, scientists at Oregon State University investigated native bumble bees in commercial fields of red clover seed crops in the Polk County region of the Willamette Valley. Prior to bloom, researchers covered plants with mesh-screened cages. European honey bee hives were placed in some cages and nests of B. vosnesenskii, a native Oregon bumble bee,in others. Some cages were also left vacant. After bloom, seed yield and seed set were compared amongst the different cages. Seed set was also evaluated in four different fields without cages to assess the efficiency of existing bee pollinators. In addition to analyzing seed set, researchers assessed the diversity and abundance of native bumble bees through visual observations of foragers on red clover flowers and through trapping bumble bees in blue vane traps.
While there were no differences in seed yield or average seed set in cages with bumble bees compared to honey bees, the study revealed that variability across cages was lower with bumble bees indicating that bumble bee pollination is more uniform than pollination by European honey bees. The researchers observed that the abundance of bumble bee peaked during mid-to-late bloom. They recorded six species of bumble bees gathering pollen from red clover flowers. Of these, more than 92 percent consisted of B. vosnesenskii, indicating that it is the key pollinator in Oregon. In addition to the six native bumble bee species that were seen gathering pollen from the red clover, 25 more species of native solitary bees, belonging to 12 genera and five families, were collected in the bee traps.
The study has not only documented a great diversity of native bees in synchrony with red clover bloom, but it has also found that seed set was uniform and high across four fields. Under current pollinator regimes, researchers believe red clover seed production is close to its maximum in Oregon.
"To sustain these high yields in Oregon, we must conserve the habitat of bees, use pesticides judiciously and provide floral resources prior to red clover bloom," said Oregon State University entomologist Sujaya Rao, one of the researchers on the study. "Globally, where red clover seed is produced, similar studies are needed. If seed set is found to be well below the maximum, appropriate alternative options such as augmentation with commercial bumble bees could be considered."
Research is ongoing at Oregon State University to determine whether high yields can be achieved by native pollinators alone. If so, European honey bee hive rentals would not be required, and this could lead to more economic red clover seed production in Oregon.
The full article is available for no charge for 30 days following the date of this summary. View the abstract at http://crop.scijournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/49/6/2207.
Crop Science is the flagship journal of the Crop Science Society of America. Original research is peer-reviewed and published in this highly cited journal. It also contains invited review and interpretation articles and perspectives that offer insight and commentary on recent advances in crop science. For more information, visit http://crop.scijournals.org.
The Crop Science Society of America (CSSA), founded in 1955, is an international scientific society comprised of 6,000+ members with its headquarters in Madison, WI. Members advance the discipline of crop science by acquiring and disseminating information about crop breeding and genetics; crop physiology; crop ecology, management, and quality; seed physiology, production, and technology; turfgrass science; forage and grazinglands; genomics, molecular genetics, and biotechnology; and biomedical and enhanced plants.
CSSA fosters the transfer of knowledge through an array of programs and services, including publications, meetings, career services, and science policy initiatives.
Sara Uttech | Newswise Science News
Fighting a destructive crop disease with mathematics
21.06.2017 | University of Cambridge
Unusual soybean coloration sheds a light on gene silencing
20.06.2017 | University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Information Technology