AGRIBUSINESS: Bees May Increase Biodiversity And Boost Yields

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This week is National Pollinator Week.

Pollinators are an important part of agriculture, and bees are an important part of pollination. There are nearly 3,500 species of bees in the U.S. You may know honeybees and bumblebees but wild bees are an intricate part of the ecosystem. However, with decreasing biodiversity as one of many causes for wild bees' and pollinators' populations going down, Iowa State University Assistant Professor Dr. Matt O'Neal with the Department of Entomology says reintroducing native Iowa prairie might be a solution that benefits bees and farmers.

He says, "A group of scientists at Iowa State University, working on what's called the STRIPS project, is exploring how you can strategically place prairie to get multiple benefits: not just biodiversity, not just beneficial insects, but also reduce soil erosion, reduce nutrient runoff."

O'Neal says prairie provides a buffer for soil and nutrients in crops and puts a pollinator habitat near row crops. According to Brazilian studies, wild bees and pollinators near soybeans may increase yields by as much as 6 to 8 percent. When honeybees are near soybeans some cases showed yield increases of as much as 26 percent.

O'Neal says, "This might sound a bit strange to farmers in Iowa because as you know, corn is wind pollinated and soybeans are bred to be self pollinated. However, there's a growing body of literature that is suggesting that soybeans benefit from visits from pollinators."

For more information regarding pollinators O'Neal recommends:

Sensitive Crops Directory- Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship
Conserving Beneficial Insects with Native Plants- Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture

Protecting Bees in Iowa- Iowa State University Extension and Outreach