Evaluation of field density, cultivar preference, and northeast grower evaluation of the hornfaced bee as an alternative sustainable pollinator for highbush blueberry production
This past year was the first of this four-your study on hornfaced bees. The first year was primarily a preparation year to be able to allow for designing and setting up experimental units. During this first year, screened field cages were designed and will be constructed in the early part of 2007 to be used in 2007 and 2008 for the bee density experiment. A netted cage inside the WVU greenhouse has been designed and construction started for the cultivar preference experiment. A blueberry grower survey was developed in conjunction with the WVU Extension Service and sent out to 300 targeted highbush blueberry growers (considered to be small- or medium-sized producers) in the Northeast to identify interested participants of using hornfaced bees as a sustainable pollinator.
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.
Objectives for 2006 were:
1. To hire a qualified graduate student to conduct the research project.
2. To obtain six cultivars to be used for cultivar preference including: ‘Rubel’ and ‘June’ (highly attractive); ‘Duke’ and ‘Bluecrop’ (moderately attractive); and ‘Elliot’ and ‘Jersey’ (poorly attractive.
3. To design and construct field bee cages.
4. To design and construct greenhouse bee cage.
5. To develop and mail blueberry grower survey to target 25 growers for bee evaluation.
Our first milestone has been accomplished.
Milestone 1 states that a comprehensive list of 100 commercial blueberry growers in the Northeast that are classified as small- to mid-sized U-pick operations will be generated using state extension agencies, and a survey (developed in conjunction with the WVU Extension Service) will be sent out to 100 targeted highbush blueberry growers identified as interested participants of using hornfaced bees as a sustainable pollinator with initial information of the benefits of use.
This comprehensive 14 page survey was developed and sent out to over 300 blueberry growers who met our criteria. This survey will also allow us to develop a profile for Northeast blueberry growers classified as small- to mid-sized with U-pick operations. Each of the objectives for 2006 was met and this research project is prepared to begin taking data for the 2007 growing season.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Preliminary data from 2004 and 2005 (funded by a SARE Partnership Grant) was presented at the 2006 Annual American Society for Horticultural Science Conference. This current grant also received attention from the American Fruit Growers trade journal and a short article was published (West T.P. 2006. Breeding Better Bees. American Fruit Grower 126(9): 38).