Research From NC State Shows Bee Biodiversity Boosts Blueberry Crop Yields

Monday, May 12, 2014

Research from North Carolina State University shows that blueberries produce more seeds and larger berries if they are visited by more diverse bee species, allowing farmers to harvest significantly more pounds of fruit per acre.

“We wanted to understand the functional role of diversity,” says Dr. Hannah Burrack, an associate professor of entomology at NC State and co-author of a paper on the research. “And we found that there is a quantifiable benefit of having a lot of different types of bees pollinating a crop.

The researchers looked at blueberries in North Carolina because it is an economically important and well understood crop that relies on insect pollination.

Within the blueberry fields, the researchers identified five distinct groups of bee species: honey bees, bumble bees, southeastern blueberry bees, carpenter bees and a functionally similar collection of species that they termed small native bees.

The researchers found that for each group above one, farmers saw an increase of $311 worth of yield per acre. For example, if two bee groups pollinated a field, the boost would be $311 per acre; for three bee groups, the boost would be $622 per acre, and so on.

“For North Carolina blueberries as a whole, we calculate the benefit of each group to be approximately $1.42 million worth of yield each year,” Dr. Burrack says.

“We think the benefit stems from differences in behavior between bee groups, in part depending on the weather,” explains Dr. David Tarpy, an associate professor of entomology at NC State and co-author of the paper. For example, southeastern blueberry bees work well regardless of inclement weather, whereas honey bees only perform at their best on calm, warm, sunny days.

“This can make a big difference, since blueberries bloom in March and April in North Carolina,” Dr. Burrack says. “That means the weather can swing from great to awful, as we saw this year.”

There is some research showing that having native, flowering plants near blueberry fields can increase native bee populations over time, but the researchers are now planning to see what role crop management can play in fostering bee diversity at crop sites.

“We’ve shown that there is a real financial benefit associated with biodiversity,” Dr. Burrack says. “The next step is to figure out how to foster that diversity in practical terms.”

The paper, “Bee species diversity enhances productivity and stability in a perennial crop,” was published May 9 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE. Lead author of the paper is Shelley Rogers, a former graduate student at NC State who received an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship to support this work.






TWRA Highway 92 Access Area In Dandridge To Be Closed Again On Friday

The TWRA Highway 92 Access Area on Douglas Lake in Dandridge will be closed again this  Friday,  to help facilitate design work for the new bridge construction.    Construction crews will be removing barges and drilling equipment following the collection of lake-bottom core samples.     The closure will begin at 1 a.m. on Friday ... (click for more)

First Right Whales Of Season Sighted Off Georgia Coast

The season’s first sighting of North Atlantic right whales on the Georgia coast underscores the fact that Georgia and north Florida are the only known calving grounds for these endangered whales. A Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission survey plane spotted a right whale mother and her new calf 16 miles off Cumberland Island  Saturday . The mom, cataloged ... (click for more)

Investor Group Plans $31 Million Hotel In Chattanooga Bank Building

An investor group announced that it is planning the development of an upscale 150-room hotel in the historic Chattanooga Bank Building. MCA is comprised of 20 EB-5 investors as limited partners with Red Leaf Development, managed by David Roos, as the general partner. Long-time partner PHG is involved in the development of the hotel and will be responsible for its management ... (click for more)

Police Say Texts From Slain Minister Detailed Drug Deals

An investigator testified Thursday that a minister who was beaten to death during an apparent drug deal had texts on his phone dealing with similar exchanges of illegal drugs. The minister's wife said he had gone out that night as part of a church counseling program to women. General Sessions Court Judge Clarence Shattuck bound charges of felony murder and especially aggravated ... (click for more)

Please Don't Close The Piccadilly Cafeteria At Hamilton Place

Oh, no. The Piccadilly Cafeteria at Hamilton Place is closing.  Its last day is Christmas Eve.  I will miss the great food they have there but most of all I will miss their servers, cashiers and waitresses.  They are all so friendly and accommodating.  They make it like it’s a home-style restaurant. I sure wish there was some way that Hamilton Place and ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: God Bless Cathy & Co.

The secret to the whole thing is not getting caught but somebody at the Toys R Us store in Framingham, Mass., had a camera when Cathy O’Grady was very quietly paying off all the layaway balances at the popular location last week. The picture snaked its way onto social media sites and her friends quickly recognized the area’s most famous “layaway angel.” Then somebody in nearby ... (click for more)