The Impacts of Native Plant Diversity on Native Bee Development and Soil Health

Project Overview

GS19-207
Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2019: $13,101.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2021
Grant Recipient: University of Arkansas
Region: Southern
State: Arkansas
Graduate Student:
Major Professor:
Dr. Neelendra Joshi
University of Arkansas

Commodities

  • Animals: bees

Practices

  • Crop Production: pollinator habitat, pollinator health
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    Current agricultural conventions tend to favor unbroken landscapes of monoculture crops. Though these fields can be efficient for farm equipment, there is evidence that they are inadequate for soil, pollinator, and ecosystem health. With this study, we aim to investigate whether the addition of native plant mixes and a higher diversity of floral resources in an area can improve the nutrient quality of the soil and the healthy development of native bee species. We will divide 12 plots of land into three treatment groups: a canola monoculture control and two different seed mixes of native North American flowers. To investigate soil health, we will perform an analysis of the soil microbial community using 16S ribosomal RNA sequencing, as well as measuring the levels of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. To assess native bee health, we will construct wood and mesh cages over each plot to house blue orchard bees (Osmia lignaria) and bumble bees (Bombus impatiens). After being exposed to either the canola crop or one of the native flower mixes, the bees will be measured on several endpoints to determine fitness, including body weight, bumble bee colony weight, larval development time, and adult emergence from pupae. We will then perform a comparative analysis to determine whether the native flower mixes had a positive effect on soil quality and bee development when compared to the monoculture control.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    • Determine whether native seed mixes, when compared to monoculture plantings, have a positive impact on native bee development health.
    • Evaluate the soil quality of plots separately planted with native seed mixes and nonnative monocultures.
    • Recommend more sustainable agriculture systems that support soil health and robust pollinator populations.
    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.