The use of native perennial wildflowers and alfalfa trap crops to increase pollination and biological control in strawberries

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2012: $14,534.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Grant Recipient: Cornell University
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Gregory Loeb
Cornell University

Annual Reports


  • Fruits: berries (strawberries)
  • Additional Plants: native plants


  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity
  • Pest Management: biological control, trap crops
  • Production Systems: general crop production

    Proposal abstract:

    The tarnished plant bug, Lygus lineolaris, is one of the top pests in strawberry and several other crops in the northeast. Due to the high value of strawberries, there is a low threshold for damage and growers often must apply insecticides to achieve control. However, this method of pest control is both costly and not sustainable, as resistance to as many as three classes of insecticides have developed in tarnished plant bug populations. In addition to the cost of pest control, many growers rely on rented honey bee colonies to ensure sufficient pollination. However, the many issues affecting the health of honey bee colonies has had negative impacts on their availability and cost. Increasing field diversity by means of a companion planting that augments the resources available to beneficial insects has proven to be a successful management tactic in many systems. A carefully selected mixture of native, perennial plants and alfalfa can potentially enhance multiple ecosystem services in strawberry including pollination and biological control. This project will investigate the ability of wildflower-alfalfa plantings to increase yield and reduce pesticide applications by improving pollination services from native pollinators and parasitism rates of tarnished plant bug.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Quantify the influence of wildflower-alfalfa strips on pollinator community composition and pollination services in strawberry.

    2. Investigate P. digoneutis biological control of tarnished plant bug to determine
    a) if parasitoids near Wildflower-Alfalfa strips achieve a higher parasitism rate and,
    b) if high parasitism correlates with reduced pest damage in the field.

    3. Disentangle the relative benefits provided by either wildflowers or alfalfa through increased pollination and/or biological control on strawberry yield.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.