AGRIBUSINESS: Sustainable Agriculture, Improving Yields With Insects

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Iowa State University researchers are examining the relationship between beneficial insects and yields for both soybeans and muskmelons.

Some literature in the field supports the idea that pollinators help yields, but pollinators don’t have to be honeybees.  Native bees serve that purpose too and are generally split into ground nesters, which need only a clear patch of earth for a habitat, and tunnel nesters, which burrow into tunnels in plant stems or old lumber.

Researcher Thelma Heidel-Baker said attracting tunnel nesters to your backyard isn’t complicated; her team has built tunnel nester habitats out of Pringles cans and bundles of straws.

Out in the field, more durable nests made of PVC pipe pepper the soybean and muskmelon plots.

Heidel-Baker’s research is aimed at attracting beneficial insects, whether they are pollinators like bees or the natural enemies of pests, such as ladybird beetles.  Her results will be released later this year, at which time she said she hopes to have a handle on the specific economic benefits that habitats can have on yields.