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.






Volunteers Sought For Appalachian Trail Crew In Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy seeks volunteers, 18 and over, to help maintain the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as part of the Smokies Wilderness Elite Appalachian Trail Crew for the 2015 season. A position on the S.W.E.A.T. Crew is physically demanding and is designed for experienced hikers who love to work hard, live in the backcountry, and create ... (click for more)

Bird Conservancy Praises New Management Areas For Grouse, But Says More Is Needed

Greater Sage-Grouse populations will benefit from 14 new management plans released today by the Obama administration, but additional habitat protections recommended by scientists are urgently needed due to a drastic drop in grouse numbers, officials of the American Bird Conservancy said.   “We hope that at the end of the day, these plans produce a ‘glass half full’ outcome ... (click for more)

Work To Start Later This Year On Major Reworking Of U.S. 27 Downtown; 31 Walls To Be Erected As Cameron Hill Faces More Cuts

Work is set to start later this year on the $80 million reworking of U.S. 27 in downtown Chattanooga. TDOT's Jennifer Flynn said all the right of way has been acquired and construction bids are tentatively scheduled to be opened in August.  The 1.4-mile project includes U.S. 27 from I-24 to south of the Olgiati Bridge.  Work was completed earlier this year on ... (click for more)

3 Finalists For Criminal Court Judge Get Interviews With Governor Haslam On Monday

The three finalists for Criminal Court judge, Division II, are set to be interviewed by Governor Bill Haslam on Monday. The Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments met on April 9, then submitted the names of Mike  Little, Leslie Longshore and Boyd Patterson. The vacancy was created when Judge Rebecca Stern announced that she was retiring prior to the end of her term. ... (click for more)

Erlanger Electronic Medical Records Purchase Doesn't Add Up - And Response

Erlanger has recently announced their decision to purchase a $100,000,000 Electronic Health Information System. Something smells. Erlanger's downtown campus has 760 licensed beds, according to hospital-data. That would equate to $131,578 per bed for this system (now that's a lot of ipads). Please re-read that simple math. I use to manage an Electric Medication Administration ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: General Boykin Helps ‘Warriors’

General W.G. “Jerry” Boykin is one of the most fabled warriors in modern-day warfare. He is also one of the most polarizing men who has ever served his country. General Boykin, retired after 36 years as a soldier, spent 13 years in the secretive Delta Force. At one time he commanded the Green Berets and was in one some pretty impressive engagements. In 1980 he was in on the ... (click for more)