- Fruits: apples
- Animals: bees
- Crop Production: pollination
Problem or Opportunity and Justification: Apples, and other early spring, tree fruits, nuts, and berries, are high-value, pollinator-dependent crops in the Northeast. Production of early spring crops is entirely dependent on the availability of bee pollinators. In the Northeast, over 3000 family farms covering 62,707 acres with total annual sales of $690M rely on a stable supply of native and managed pollinators. While many growers in the Northeast rely on honey bees for pollination, our work over the past 20 years in New York has revealed that much of New York apple pollination is achieved by native, wild bees. Our studies have revealed a diverse fauna of over 120 wild bee species visiting flowering apple trees. Based on empirical studies, we have shown that wild bees are more effective pollinators (on a per visit basis) than honeybees. Analyses incorporating abundance and per-visit effectiveness indicate that the wild bee community contributes significant value to the production of high-value, tree-fruit in New York. Furthermore, surveys of over 600 apple growers in New York and Pennsylvania between 2009 and 2012 revealed an appreciation for the role of wild bees in apple pollination, but also revealed gaps in grower knowledge about how best to manage landscape and pesticide use, and how to quantify the abundance and effectiveness of the wild bee community.
Solution and Approach: We seek to address this knowledge gap by developing educational materials for agricultural service providers in the Northeast. We will develop educational modules focused on five topics: (1) wild bee biodiversity, ecology, and natural history in the eastern US (apple orchards in particular), (2) the economic value of wild and managed bees as agricultural pollinators, (3) habitat management for enhancing wild bee populations, (4) best management practices for pollinator-friendly pesticide use, and (5) the use of a smartphone-based monitoring tool for guiding pollinator management decisions on a local scale. We will provide information, PowerPoint presentations, videos, and in-person and virtual training to a team of at least 30 agricultural service providers in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. These materials will allow agricultural service providers to educate growers across the Northeast about the diversity, value, and management of wild pollinators. Our educational program will allow growers to diversify their “pollinator portfolio” so that eastern fruit tree pollination is less dependent on a single, managed pollinator, the European honey bee (Apis mellifera). Expanding and diversifying the “pollinator portfolio” of eastern fruit producers will help growers reduce the cost associated with pollination, will render eastern tree-fruit producers less dependent on the unpredictable and fluctuating availability of honey bee colonies, and will make tree fruit production more environmentally sustainable over the long term.
Performance targets from proposal:
Thirty agricultural service providers will educate over 600 apple and other early spring flowering tree-fruit producers about five key aspects of pollinator biology and pollinator management: (1) bee biodiversity, ecology, and natural history, (2) the economic value of wild and managed bees, (3) habitat management for enhancing wild bee populations, (4) best management practices and updated guidelines for pollinator-friendly pesticide use, and (5) the use of a smartphone-based bee monitoring tool that guides pollinator management decisions.