- Agronomic: sunflower
- Fruits: apples, berries (blueberries), melons
- Vegetables: beans, cucurbits, eggplant
- Additional Plants: herbs, native plants
- Animals: bees
- Crop Production: conservation tillage, cover crops, multiple cropping, no-till
- Education and Training: extension, farmer to farmer, networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
- Farm Business Management: agritourism, budgets/cost and returns, whole farm planning
- Production Systems: agroecosystems, holistic management, organic agriculture, permaculture
- Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures
This study set out to document what groups of bees are providing visitation to insect pollinated crops in East Tennessee, and what bees will utilize a number of flowers used as bee food. In 2008-09, bee visitation data was collected on 12 farms and 10 different crops. On one of these farms, UT’s Organic Crops Unit, visitation data was collected for 26 different flowers that could be used in a bee food plot.
Native bees have been shown to provide significant levels of crop pollination in areas where natural habitat exists (Winfree et al 2007). While in areas of more intensive agriculture, such as found in California’s Central Valley, crop pollination is nearly entirely dependent on the non-native, commercially managed honey bee (Apis mellifera) (Kremen et al 2004). Regardless of whether we consider native bees or honey bees, bee populations in general are in decline. This fact threatens the ecology behind food production (Spivak et al . 2011). It is therefore important to document what bees are providing visitation to insect pollinated crops. To improve the health of bees, numerous strategies are underway including the enhancement of natural habitat for diverse and pesticide-free pollen and nectar sources through establishments of flower plots for bees (Spivak et al 2011). Regional planting guides for bee food plots can be found, however actual tests of the plants are not well developed.
Project objectives:div style="margin-left:1em;">
- Study the community composition of bees providing visitation to insect pollinated crops and flowers that could be used in bee food plots
Determine the importance of native bees in crop pollination
Determine if the flowers tested for bee food provide food to bees that provide crop visitation