- Agronomic: soybeans
- Additional Plants: native plants
- Crop Production: crop rotation, multiple cropping
- Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
- Farm Business Management: value added
- Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, carbon sequestration, habitat enhancement, wetlands, wildlife
- Soil Management: soil quality/health
- Sustainable Communities: community services, public participation, sustainability measures
Insect pollinators are essential to the nation’s native plants, agricultural crops, and economic stability. Pollination is required to produce 15-30% of the U.S. human food supply. The European honey bee (Apis mellifera) has been at the center of attention for decades, but native bees are often much better pollinators than honey bees and are vital to the survival of specialized plants. Emergent wetlands occur adjacent to croplands throughout the Southeastern United States and create valuable floral resources for pollinators throughout the growing season. Though cotton, rice, and soybeans are considered autogamous (self-pollinating), cross-breeding (via pollinators) helps increase yield, produce more viable seed, and enhance genetic diversity of the crop. Moist-soil wetlands are intensively managed for annual plants that produce abundant seed resources for migratory waterfowl, moist substrate for shorebird foraging, and breeding grounds for amphibians. Programs like the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (formerly the wetland reserve program) seek to reestablish native plant communities, improve water quality, and provide habitat, but their role in creating floral resources for pollinators has been overlooked. Pollinator communities that use wetlands have been poorly documented and their benefits to surrounding lands are not understood. Our project seeks to document and compare pollinator communities in actively and passively managed emergent wetlands of the Mississippi Alluvial Valley and secondly their role in pollinating crops in sites adjacent to these wetlands. The results of this research should provide management recommendations to state, federal, and public land managers seeking to improve and retain native pollinators on their properties.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Compare pollinator communities between passively and actively managed emergent wetlands throughout the flowering season.
- Assess the impact of different management strategies on species diversity.
- Document whether pollinators visiting flowers in wetlands are also visiting flowers in adjacent croplands.