20 March, 2024

Interplanted red clover supports pollinator conservation in sweet corn plantings

Bumblebee on red clover

 By Yurchak et al.

Monoculture cropping systems, or those consisting of a single crop, often support significantly fewer pollinators than natural landscapes. This is, in part, due to the low diversity of plants present within these areas. The short bloom period of crops in these systems presents an additional challenge for pollinators, as pollen and nectar are only available for a short time. During periods before and after crop bloom, these habitats are not suitable for foraging bees. Increasing the abundance of flowering plants within crop fields is an often-overlooked practice that may help sustain and enhance pollinator populations. In this study, we investigated the effectiveness of using interplanted red clover to enhance pollinator abundance and richness within sweet corn plantings.

              To accomplish this, we assessed the pollinator community within both the red clover flowers and sweet corn via visual observations of floral visitation and pan traps. Weekly observations of all bees and butterflies visiting red clover flowers were performed throughout the sweet corn growing season. We also observed all insect pollinators visiting sweet corn tassels during the corn flowering period.  The diversity of bee species present within all experimental treatments was further evaluated using pan traps, which were set at multiple dates and varying heights relative to clover and sweet corn flowers throughout the summer.

              Our results provide evidence that interplanting flowering strips into sweet corn fields can increase the diversity and abundance of bees and butterflies within these cropping systems, demonstrating their use for pollinator conservation. However, it is important that careful thought is given to the pest management practices used, as pesticide sprays could prove fatal to foraging pollinators. Thus, this practice may be more favorable to cropping systems utilizing nonconventional pest control methods that reduce pesticide applications and/or pollinator exposure to pesticides.


Read the scientific paper in JPE.

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