The Horticulture Industry Pollinator Stewardship Task Force has completed its first goal of developing a research agenda. The purpose of the agenda is to signal to researchers the kinds of targeted research projects the industry wishes to support. AmericanHort’s research affiliate, the Horticultural Research Institute (HRI), will engage the research community and collaborate with other research funding entities such as the American Floral Endowment (AFE), USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) and other federal agencies to fill critical research and information gaps.
The research project priorities are as follows:
- Identify the plants that are regularly sold in the marketplace and from which bees and other pollinators are likely to gather pollen and nectar. Many of the plants we sell are for the interiorscape (such as poinsettia), or through breeding no longer produce much in the way of nectar and pollen (like petunia), or are not visited by bees at all (e.g., hemlock). Such plants do not need special attention with regard to insecticide applications.
- For plants identified as common food source for bees and pollinators, what are the systemic insecticides concentrations in pollen and nectar following normal application strategies, and how do they dissipate over time? This information will be vital to the refinement of pest management strategies that reduce the risk of bees being exposed to insecticides on plant material that they regularly use for forage.
- While most research priorities pertain directly to plant production practices, another area of interest looks to evaluate the health of native bees in and around suburban and urban areas. Little is known about their health and the potential threats their populations face. However, there is a sense that native bees are under stress, and one research area suggested by the task force would seek to identify those challenges by analyzing the small hives of some native bees for the presence and intensity of varroa and tracheal mite infestations, viral and fungal pathogens and presence of pesticides in beeswax and honey.
HRI is developing a request for proposals (RFP) that will reflect research-urgent project priorities described by the industry task force.
“One of HRI’s key priorities is to move quickly to solve emerging issues affecting the horticultural industry, says Dr. Joseph Albano, HRI’s research programs director. “Our Bee and Pollinator Stewardship Initiative is an example of this. HRI is dedicated to this initiative and will work with interested parties to sustain bee and pollinator health and successful pest management strategies for horticultural crop production.”
In the meantime, the industry task force continues its work and is making great strides in developing the plant production pollinator stewardship program with a focus on improving the circumstances of forage, habitat and reduced pesticide interactions with pollinators.
Learn more about the horticulture industry’s Bee and Pollinator Stewardship Initiative and how you can help.