On-farm conservation of native bees: Understanding the barriers to implementation and assessing viability in WI cranberry
Wisconsin is the top producer of cranberries in the country. Cranberry, a pollinator dependent crop, requires insect pollination to produce fruit. Therefore, growers spend thousands of dollars each year renting honey bees to fulfill their pollination requirements. Recent declines in honey bees have made colonies more expensive, threatening the long-term sustainability of this practice. Native bees also pollinate cranberries. Unfortunately, their populations are also in decline due to habitat fragmentation, intensified agriculture, and agri-chemical exposure. Through on-farm conservation practices growers can protect and enhance native bees while harnessing their pollination services. While funding is available for on-farm conservation through the federal EQIP program, participation among Wisconsin cranberry growers has been nearly non-existent. By understanding why growers are not participating, agency personnel and university extension workers could adapt current management recommendations to increase grower participation while addressing grower needs and concerns. Participation in on-farm pollinator conservation programs has the potential to reduce growers’ dependence on external sources of pollination, enhance local populations of native bees, and provide a model for other pollinator-dependent crops in the Upper Midwest.
To understand the barriers in awareness, attitude, and feasibility that prevents the implementation of federally funded on-farm conservation programs for native bees on Wisconsin cranberry marshes.
In 2012, I presented preliminary results from the grower survey (see uploaded PDF from 2011) to the cranberry growers at their annual Cranberry School in Stevens Point, WI (see uploaded conference proceedings). I was able to combine data from the survey, my thesis research, and a grower panel to tell the growers about my research findings and current management practices used by their fellow farmers. By combining these three sources of information, I was able to bridge the gap between academic research and on-the-ground management to provide the growers with a broader perspective on cranberry pollination.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
I have continued to interact with growers over the past year and initiated several new related projects as a result. Over the next year, I plan to compile a brochure for cranberry growers about native bees in Wisconsin cranberry and create a document summarizing the results from the survey.
University of Wisconsin
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Madison, WI 53706
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