- Fruits: apples, berries (blueberries), cherries
- Education and Training: extension
- Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement
- Pest Management: biological control
Conventional farming relies on intensive management practices of agricultural land, which are generally detrimental to insects that would otherwise be beneficial in pollination and/or the controlling of pests within the fields. Flowering plants can provide necessary resources for beneficial insects in agricultural landscapes including nectar, pollen, alternate prey, shelter, and nesting sites, but there are still many questions needed to be answered in order to effectively integrate flowers into farms for supporting these insects. With this project I will determine whether native flowering strips composed of a mixture of annual and perennial wildflowers will support beneficial insects earlier and remain established longer than those strips composed of only perennial or annual wildflowers. I will also determine the response of beneficial insects to the size of flowering plant strips. Abundance and diversity of natural enemies and pollinators will be measured within the flower strips, and our results will be integrated into field sites at various blueberry farms in the North Central Region. The data and photographs collected during this study will be used to provide educational materials for growers, extension educators, and the public about integrating these natural resources into agricultural systems. By establishing strips of flowering plants with overlapping blooms that are attractive to beneficial insects, planted in a plot of appropriate size, we aim to maximize the economical and ecological return on investment in land, seed, and site management required for growers to establish these strips.
Project objectives from proposal:
The short-term goal of this project is to evaluate native flowering plant composition and strip size on their effectiveness as conservation strips for sustainable enhancement of beneficial insect communities. The results from this project will be used to infer the benefits of plant composition and strip size on the beneficial insect communities of fruit farms.
The intermediate goal is to use this information along with visual representations of fields, flowers, and insects to educate fruit growers on the value of native flowering plant strips and how to effectively integrate the ideal plant composition and strip size for use at their farms.
Our long-term goal is to gain widespread grower acceptance of this strategy, which will lead to an overall increase in beneficial insect habitat and biodiversity in the North Central Region’s agricultural landscapes.