Exploring relationships between pollinators and canola on the Palouse

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2018: $207,134.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2022
Grant Recipient: Washington State University
Region: Western
State: Washington
Principal Investigator:
Dr. David Crowder
Washington State University

Information Products


  • Agronomic: canola


  • Crop Production: pollination, pollinator habitat, pollinator health, varieties and cultivars
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, mentoring, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement

    Proposal abstract:

    Canola is an increasingly common crop grown on the Palouse due to its potential for producing
    biofuels and to diversity conventional cereal-legume rotations. Our preliminary data suggest that
    canola crops, which provide a large source of pollen and nectar in an otherwise simple floral
    landscape, support a diverse population of honeybees and native species including bumblebees,
    mason bees, and sweat bees. However, while many canola fields are surrounded exclusively by
    agriculture, others are near sizeable tracts of prairie and other insect-friendly habitat.
    Importantly, canola yields appear to increase at sites surrounded by more natural habitat,
    possibly due to increased bee abundance in these landscapes. Our preliminary data suggest two
    main hypotheses that warrant further investigation. First, increasing natural habitat surrounding
    canola fields promotes increased bee abundance and seed yields. Second, increasing nectar sugar
    content is attractive to bees and promotes high canola yields. Our project addresses these
    knowledge gaps, allowing+ our team to gain a better understanding of the role of pollinators in
    promoting high yielding and high quality canola plants. We will also determine how growers
    might be able to modify their management practices to promote high pollinator activity on their
    fields. This will improve the sustainability of canola producers in the Palouse. Our project thus
    meets several goals of the Western SARE program: (1) promote good stewardship of the nation’s
    natural resources (by providing information on how growers can modify farming practices to
    promote pollinator diversity and high yielding/quality canola); (2) promote crop, livestock, and
    enterprise diversification (our project will aid growers in incorporating canola into rotations,
    which will increase their enterprise diversity; our project also explores diversity of pollinators);
    and (3) examine the environmental implications of adopting sustainable agriculture practices and
    systems (by exploring how farming practices affect pollinators and the quality of canola plants).

    Project objectives from proposal:

    (1) Explore relationships between landscape structure, bees, and canola yields and quality
    (2) Determine how farm management practices affect nectar and pollen traits
    (3) Educate growers on pollinator management in canola

    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.