A new project seeks to promote pollinator conservation in agriculture.
In the wake of colony collapse disorder, bee populations have seen dramatic losses in recent years. But a team of Texas Tech University researchers is working on a project to help farmers boost the health of their pollinator pals.
Funded by a $380,579 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service, the three-year project will study how land not being used for agricultural production can be improved to benefit the diverse and abundant native species that pollinate crops, and then teach producers more effective conservation methods to maintain those populations.
“Beneficial insects, including pollinators, are an important component of sustainable agroecosystems,” said Scott Longing, lead researcher and an assistant professor of entomology in the Texas Tech Department of Plant & Soil Science. “Pollinator decline has become an important issue in recent years, highlighted by colony collapse disorder in managed honey bees and reductions in the ranges of some native bees. Information on insect pollinator biodiversity and their habitat resource is a major need for developing conservation actions to protect and restore native biodiversity and the valuable pollination services it provides.”
The project began Nov. 1. The current phase involves recruiting producers and finding agricultural sites for investigation. In year two, on-site demonstrations will be conducted at some of the farms to highlight conservation actions for pollinators.
“The project will be aimed at developing information to assist producers in adopting conservation practices to promote pollinator health, through studies that address existing habitat resources of pollinators and changes in communities following the application of conservation practices on farms,” Longing said. “We hope these efforts will increase producer adoption of new conservation practices aimed at promoting pollinator conservation, while providing information and resources that can be applied here and in other agricultural regions.”
Other researchers involved in the interdisciplinary project are Robert Cox, an associate professor in the Department of Natural Resources Management; Nancy McIntyre, a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences; Cynthia McKenney, associate chairwoman and Rockwell Endowed Professor in Plant & Soil Science; and Charles West, Thornton Distinguished Chair in Plant & Soil Science.