Native Plant Conservation Strips for Sustainable Pollination and Pest Control in Fruit Crops

2009 Annual Report for LNC08-297

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2008: $148,837.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:
Brett Blaauw
Michigan State University

Native Plant Conservation Strips for Sustainable Pollination and Pest Control in Fruit Crops


During the first year of this project, we have sown a mix of perennial wildflower seeds in strips adjacent to crop fields at cooperator farms. We determined background abundance and diversity of beneficial and pest insects within the crop fields through 2010. As the flower strips establish we will be able to compare the abundance and diversity of beneficial insects in fields with and without flower strips. The project team has also surveyed growers to determine their level of knowledge of conservation practices for building biodiversity in fruit farms, allowing comparison at the end of this project.

Objectives/Performance Targets

This research project has four main objectives:
1) increase pollination and reduce pest abundance in fruit crops by deploying native plant conservation strips to support native bees and natural enemies
2) increase producer and public awareness of using flowering plant diversity in farms to support beneficial insects including natural enemies and pollinators
3) improve producer knowledge of beneficial insect identification and biology
4) develop guidelines for increased implementation of insect conservation strips in farmland.


Objective 1. Recent research at Michigan State University has identified and measured the relative attractiveness of native mid-western perennial flowering plants that can provide season-long floral resources for beneficial insects in agricultural landscapes. From their results, we have selected a set of herbaceous flowering plants that rank highly for their attractiveness to natural enemies and pollinators, and are listed under the Conservation Reserve Program – State Acres For Wildlife Enhancement (Table 1). Wildflower seeds were sown in early spring 2009 in strips prepared in fall 2008 adjacent to the crop fields. Grower cooperators mowed the wildflower plots once a month to control annual weed growth and facilitate perennial wildflower establishment (Figure 1).

Un-baited yellow sticky traps were deployed from May through September 2009 for one week during each month to determine the abundance and diversity of native bees, insect natural enemies, and common pest insects. At each of our study fields (n=9), 4 traps were placed at four locations; along the crop field perimeter adjacent to the wildflower strip, 50ft into the field adjacent to the strip, along the field perimeter of a control field, and 50ft into the field along the control. To measure insect abundance and diversity we also took observational data every two weeks and used a reverse-flow leaf blower to vacuum collect insects once a month from May through August 2009. For the first year (2009) of data collection for this project we were able to determine the background abundance and diversity of insect pollinators (Figure 2), beneficial insects (Figure 3), and pest insects (Figure 4) in our 5 blueberry, 4 apple, and 4 cherry research sites (figures are examples taken from blueberry, but data exist for apple and cherry sites as well). Within the blueberry fields, we found that beneficial insect abundance tended to be higher throughout the season at the organic farm compared to the conventional farms (Figure 5). Pest insect abundance at the organic farm followed a similar trend to that of the conventional farms (Figure 6).

Objective 2. To increase producer and public awareness of using flowering plant diversity in farms to support beneficial insects, the project team has given 5 talks over the past year at local conferences and grower meetings in order to introduce and inform local growers of our ongoing project (Figure 7, 8, and 9). We have also surveyed attendees at these local conferences to determine the current knowledge of growers and the public of beneficial insects and conservation practices. We used TurningPointtm polling software and response devices to anonymously ask the attendees a series of questions concerning their farming methods, crops, and conservation practices. We also included a series of images of common Michigan beneficial insects and used TurningPointtm to test whether or not the audience was able to correctly identify those insects. Our initial results from the survey imply that organic growers are better able to identify beneficial insects and are more aware of conservation practices compared with growers who practice conventional farming (Table 2). The survey will be given again at these conferences at the end of our project to see if there has been any change in the knowledge of growers and the public.

Objective 3. To improve producer knowledge of beneficial insect identification and biology the project team met with our grower cooperators during the 2009 growing season to discuss the current state of our project and to keep them informed about the project progress. This coming spring-summer (2010) when our wildflower plots are better established we will have grower meetings where we invite our cooperators as well as other local farmers to learn about our project, beneficial insects, and current conservation practices.

Objective 4. In order to develop guidelines for increased implementation of insect conservation strips in farmland we have taken extensive notes on the processes used in establishing the wildflower strips at our farm sites. We talked with our seed provider to determine which flower species were the most likely to germinate the first year and we sampled all the farm sites to measure which species did indeed germinate. To make sure our guidelines remain affordable for growers we also distributed information packets to our growers that contained sheets for them to fill out on how much of their time and money was put into helping us establish the flower strips.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

The information gathered during the first year of our multi-year project has primarily been a year of establishment. We have established relationships with our grower cooperators, sown the seeds of the perennial wildflowers, and distributed information about our project and its objectives to local growers and the public through presentations and informational handouts.

This coming year, 2010, will be an exciting year for our project because we expect to see more flowers bloom in our conservation strips, more data, and hence more information to share with the growers and the public. We are also planning an internet-based information outlet that will share the current state of our project, as well as videos, pictures, and links to pertinent and related information.


Dennis Hartmann

09548 CR 215
PO Box 195
Grand Junction, MI 49056
Karlis Galens

70788 CR 376
PO Box 195
Covert, MI 49043
Nikki Rothwell
Michigan State University
6686 S. Center Hwy
Traverse City, MI 49684
Office Phone: 2319461510
Jerry Brandt

304 Herman Rd.
Suttons Bay, MI 49682
Chris Bardenhagen

7881 E. Pertner Rd
Suttons Bay, MI 49682
Denny Vanderkooi

10821 Pierce St.
Zeeland, MI 49464
David Epstein
Michigan State University
B18 Food Safety and Toxicology Center
PO Box 195
East Lansing, MI 48824
Office Phone: 5174324766
R.J. Rant

14810 Woodside Trail
PO Box 195
Grand Haven, MI 49417
Brett Blaauw
Michigan State University
202 Center for Integrated Plant Systems
East Lansing, MI 48824
Office Phone: 5174329554
Carlos Garcia Salazar
Michigan State University Extension
12220 Fillmore St.
Suite 122
West Olive, MI 49464
Office Phone: 6169944580
Steve Tennes

4648 Otto Rd
Charlotte, MI 48813
John Calsbeek

5737 Clymer Rd
Coloma, MI 49038
Jim Koan

1431 Duffield Rd
Flushing, MI 48433