- Fruits: berries (other)
- Production Systems: general crop production
- Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures
Northern highbush blueberry cultivars account for 100% of the Midwestern region and 99% of the Northeastern region in the United States commercial plantations. Commercial planted acreage in the U.S. is projected to increase 33% by the year 2013. One of the most limiting and critical factors of blueberry crop production is pollination. Inadequate pollination of blueberry blossoms results in reduced yields, reduced berry size, and berry maturity delay. A good commercial blueberry crop requires that at least 80 percent of the blossoms set fruit. To ensure a successful blueberry crop, supplemental pollination is often required which typically is done with honeybees (Apis mellifera L.). With the decline of native pollinators and honeybee populations, other pollinators need to be evaluated for blueberry crop production. Hornfaced bees (Osmia cornifrons Radoszkowski) may provide a successful sustainable alternative for pollination of commercial blueberry plants. Our preliminary work currently funded by NESARE has shown that hornfaced bees have the ability to be a successful sustainable pollinator of blueberry. Currently there are no reports or recommendations on hornfaced bee use available for blueberry farmers. There are three objectives of this follow-up research which are; 1. to determine hornfaced bee population density requirements, 2. to determine if hornfaced bees have cultivar preferences and 3. to evaluate use of hornfaced bees by small and medium sized commercial blueberry growers in the Northeast. Of the 100 small to medium-sized commercial blueberry growers in the Northeast targeted in this project, 15 growers will adopt the use of hornfaced bees as an alternative pollinator to increase yields and farm sustainability.
Performance targets from proposal:
Of the 100 small to medium-sized commercial blueberry growers in the Northeast targeted in this project, 15 growers will adopt the use of hornfaced bees as an alternative pollinator to increase yields and farm sustainability.
During the initial outreach phase of this project, we will develop a comprehensive list of 100 commercial blueberry growers in the Northeast that are classified as small to mid-sized U-pick operations. Each of the 100 growers will be contacted and the project goals and objectives will be presented to them. Of the 100 growers, the 25 growers that agree to evaluate hornfaced bees will receive instructions and all of the required materials to evaluate hornfaced bee use and management for a two year period. All participants will be contacted by phone and mail at least twice during each year of the project to track progress of evaluation and to follow up on any questions or to give suggestions. As the project nears completion, the 25 growers will be surveyed about their perception and evaluation of hornfaced bee use as a pollinator of blueberry. Data on berry yield and hornfaced bee propagation will be collected, compiled and analyzed using analysis of variance. This two year data from the 25 growers will then be used to update and provide specific recommendations for hornfaced bee use for pollination of blueberry and made available to all highbush blueberry growers. This updated bulletin will be mailed to all of the 100 growers involved in the initial outreach phase of this project. A final survey will also be mailed to the 25 participating growers to determine if barriers were encountered during this project that may have prevented them from adopting use of hornfaced bees and whether they will continue use of the hornfaced bee.