Planting flowers to increase ecosystem services…

Supplementing the landscape with non-crop flowering plants can provide important food resources for pollinators, but does this form of habitat management necessarily lead to increased rates of crop pollination?

Increasing pollen and nectar supplies may lead to increases in bee populations and local pollinator activity, but the wildflowers producing these food sources may also effectively compete with the crop for pollination services.

To test the influence of floral resource provisioning on crop pollination services, we are comparing rates of pollination in fields of muskmelon (Cucumis melo L.). Like other members of the Cucurbitaceae, muskmelon plants require insect pollinators to transfer their heavy pollen grains between male and female reproductive structures which usually occur on different flowers. To investigate whether the addition of non-crop flowers will have an effect on pollination, areas of native wildflowers were established at the edge of half the study fields, and pollination rate is being estimated through visual observations, physical collections, and fruit seed counts.

Preliminary analysis suggests that floral resource provisioning may indeed have a positive influence on crop pollination.