Syngenta Canada Inc. and Dalhousie University, together with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, are partnering on an innovative research project to increase bee populations and blueberry yields in the Maritime Provinces.
Canada is the world’s largest producer of wild blueberries and most are grown in Quebec and in the Atlantic provinces. They are important economically and are part of our cultural identity.
“An increase in the demand for blueberries has resulted in the expansion of blueberry operations. Bee populations have not, however, increased in tandem,” says Dr. Paul Hoekstra, Stewardship Manager with Syngenta Canada Inc. Bees and blueberries are an important combination and over the past two years declines in blueberry yields have caused concerns.
“An inadequate supply of bees required to pollinate a healthy blueberry crop has been identified as an important problem,” says Dr. Chris Cutler, Associate Professor, Dalhousie University, Faculty of Agriculture. “This research project hopes to address a couple of the factors that may be part of the problem – nesting habitat limitations and a lack of food resources.”
The research will involve planting of bee-attractive forage plants and creation of bee nesting sites. Impacts of these habitat amendments on bee populations and blueberry pollination will be analyzed over two years.
“We’re planting annual buckwheat, which is particularly attractive to bees, along the edge of blueberry fields,” explains researcher Robyn McCallum. “We’re also examining the use of nesting blocks that can be used by certain cavity nesting bees, and how nesting block design, placement, and management affects the number of bees in a field and, as a result, pollination rates.” Originally from Tabusintac, New Brunswick, the Dalhousie Master of Science student is hopeful that the blueberry sector will benefit from her research. “We think the research will demonstrate the benefits of these practical methods to boost native bee populations.”
Syngenta Canada is supporting the research through their Operation Pollinator™ program. The program includes support for research and other initiatives that contribute to enhanced biodiversity and habitat in support of healthy pollinator populations.
“Increasing numbers of natural pollinators has been shown to increase yield and quality in key agricultural crops,” says Dr. Hoekstra. “We are pleased to support Robyn’s research and we look forward to seeing the results of this work,” adds Hoekstra, noting that, “at least one third of the human food supply from crops and plants depends on insect pollination, most of which is done by bees. So, we all have a shared interest in bee health.”
About Dalhousie University
Dalhousie University is one of Canada’s leading research-intensive universities, attracting more than $140 million in research grants and awards each year. Many Dalhousie researchers are nationally and internationally recognized for their work, whether it’s ground-breaking, thought-provoking or solving real-world issues. Dalhousie is also a member of the U15, a group of 15 Canadian research-intensive universities that bring together distinguished minds to bear on the most profound challenges our nation and our world face.
About the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
NSERC is a federal agency that helps make Canada a country of discoverers and innovators for all Canadians. The agency supports 30,000 post-secondary students and postdoctoral fellows in their advanced studies. NSERC promotes discovery by funding approximately 12,000 professors every year and fosters innovation by encouraging about 2,400 Canadian companies to participate and invest in post-secondary research projects.
About Operation Pollinator
Operation Pollinator is a Syngenta program focused on research and partnerships to promote the health and well-being of bees and other pollinators given their essential role in agriculture and nature. The program's mandate is to support activities that enhance biodiversity, habitat and other practical initiatives that contribute to healthy pollinator populations. The program originated in the United Kingdom and has since been expanded to more than 13 countries around the world. It includes both on-farm and off-farm components.