- Fruits: berries (blueberries)
- Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement
- Production Systems: permaculture
Market demands for high quality pest-free produce drive intensive management practices by producers of fruits and vegetables in the North Central region. These practices are generally detrimental to natural enemies of pests and to pollinating insects, resulting in low abundance of these beneficial insects in many specialty crop fields. Our recent research has identified a group of native plants that provide flowers through the growing season and are attractive to natural enemies and bees. The plants have been established in replicated resource strips at blueberry farms to test the extent to which provision of flower biodiversity can increase pest control and pollination in adjacent crop fields. We will measure natural enemy abundance and parasitism of pests in fields adjacent to the plantings and compare these to distant edges of the same field without the flowering strips. In the same fields, measurements of pollinator visitation to blueberry flowers during bloom, the degree of fruit set, and the yield per plant will be compared in sites with and without resource strips. Pest abundance will be measured throughout to ensure that the supplemental plants do not increase pest abundance. Our field sites and the results we gain will be used to provide educational materials for growers and extension educators about integrating these natural resources into incentive-driven farm conservation plans for the support of beneficial insects. The results of this study will help foster the re-integration of natural habitats into the agricultural landscapes of the North central region.
Project objectives from proposal:
The primary short-term goal of this project is to test a strategy for utilization of native plants to increase biodiversity in a perennial fruit system. We will use this information to inform specialty crop growers about the benefits that native flowering plants can bring to their farmland, and to develop a user-friendly implementation plan for those interested in adopting this strategy. In the intermediate-term this will provide a sustainable strategy for growers who wish to increase pollinator and natural enemy populations in their fields and support region-wide adoption of this approach. In the long-term, widespread grower acceptance of this strategy will lead to an overall increase in beneficial insect habitat and biodiversity in the region’s agricultural landscapes.