Farmland in U.S. Conservation Reserve Program has unique floral composition that promotes bee summer foraging

Basic and Applied Ecology
By: , and 



Bee conservation is a topic of global concern, particularly in agroecosystems where their contribution to crop pollination is highly valued. Over a decade ago, bees and other pollinators were made a priority of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), a U.S. federal program that pays land owners to establish a conservation cover, typically grassland, on environmentally sensitive farmland. Despite large financial investment in this program, few studies have measured the benefit of CRP to bees, particularly in complex agroecosystems with abundant alternative forage. To determine if CRP land seeded with pollinator-attractive native flowers and/or introduced legumes provides distinct floral composition that attracts more foraging bees than non-CRP habitats, we compared CRP land to paired non-CRP fields and roadsides at 31 sites in Michigan, U.S.A.. We found CRP land had unique floral species community composition, higher floral abundance, greater species richness, more native floral species, and greater inflorescence coverage. Greater inflorescence coverage on CRP land was associated with a greater abundance of both honey bees and wild bees than either non-CRP fields or roadsides, as was native flower abundance for wild bees. Showy native plant species were important forage resources on CRP land: Monarda fistulosa was the most foraged upon species by both honey bees and wild bees, and goldenrod species were important late-summer forage resources for honey bees. These findings demonstrate the benefit of managing CRP land with herbaceous seed mixes to create dense, showy, native plant communities that provide summer-long resources to both bee groups. Insights from this study could be used to enhance the composition of future conservation program investments and management of non-CRP land to benefit pollinators.

    Study Area

    Publication type Article
    Publication Subtype Journal Article
    Title Farmland in U.S. Conservation Reserve Program has unique floral composition that promotes bee summer foraging
    Series title Basic and Applied Ecology
    DOI 10.1016/j.baae.2021.08.011
    Volume 56
    Year Published 2021
    Language English
    Publisher Elsevier
    Contributing office(s) Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
    Description 11 p.
    First page 358
    Last page 368
    Country United States
    State Michigan
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