Attracting pollinators and natural enemies to add value to Iowa agriculture


The purpose of this project is to investigate how conservation with native plants can improve yield and pest management in field and vegetable crops. We will test the hypothesis that incorporating a refuge of native perennial plants determined to be attractive to beneficial insects, will enhance the delivery of ecosystem services to soybean and muskmelon. This experiment will test whether a refuge designed to provide flowering resources for beneficial insects can improve their abundance, diversity and impact. Refuges will consist of five species of perennial forbs, and will be established during the summer and fall of 2012. We will collect data from the crops planted adjacent to the refuge in 2013 and 2014, rotating the crops on either side between growing seasons. The refuge described above may be used by ground-nesting bees, but does not necessarily provide suitable nesting habitat for all species of pollinators. In order to further facilitate the establishment of a diverse community of pollinators, we will construct nesting blocks that combine multiple nesting materials into a single unit, and deploy one at each treatment site.