The Integrated Crop Pollination Project

A Coordinated Agricultural Project Funded by the USDA Specialty Crop Reseach Initiative

The project team is investigating the performance, economics, and farmer perceptions of different pollination strategies in various fruit and vegetable crops. These include complete reliance on honey bees, farm habitat manipulation to enhance suitability for bees, and use of managed native bees alone or in combination with honey bees. Integrated Crop Pollination (ICP) is defined as: the combined use of multiple pollinator species, habitat augmentation, and crop management practices to provide reliable and economical pollination of crops. This approach is analogous to Integrated Pest Management in its aim to provide decision-support tools to reduce risk and improve returns through the use of multiple tactics tailored to specific crops and situations. 

Project Objectives:

  • Identify economically-valuable pollinators and the factors affecting their abundance.
  • Develop habitat management practices to improve crop pollination
  • Determine performance of alternative managed bees as specialty crop pollinators.
  • Demonstrate and deliver ICP practices for specialty crops.
  • Determine optimal methods of ICP information delivery and measure ICP adoption.
  • Economics and modeling of pollination ecosystem services.

Integrated Crop Pollination

4 ways to help bees help you 

4 Ways to Help Bees Help You
Project ICP

Both wild bees and managed bees are important crop pollinators. The more bees that visit your crop, the better the fruit and nut set. Here are four steps you can take on your farm to help bees help you.

Honey Bees

bee health

Bee Health

This knowledge comes from experts involved in the USDA-ARS Areawide Program for Improving Honey Bee Health, the USDA-NIFA Coordinated Agricultural Project (CAP) for Sustainable Solutions to Problems Affecting Health of Managed Bees, Bee Informed Partnership and many others.

bee informed partnership

Bee Informed Partnership

The Bee Informed Partnership's core idea is that we can learn more by studying honey bee health on a large scale than we can in individual lab experiments. 

sample pollination contract

Sample Pollination Contract

The key to a prospering pollination service is proper promotion, honest, quality service, and a written contract that details the expectaions of both grower and beekeeper.

Alternative Managed Pollinators

managing alternative pollinators

Managing Alternative Pollinators: A Handbook for Beekeepers, Growers, and Conservationists
E. Mader, M. Spivak & E. Evans
Xerces Society, 2010

A first-of-its-kind, step-by-step, full-color guide for rearing and managing bumble bees, mason bees, leafcutter bees, and other bee species that provide pollination alternatives to the rapidly declining honey bee.

how to manage the blue orchard bee

How to Manage the Blue Orchard Bee
J. Bosch & W. Kemp,

In recent years, the Blue Orchard Bee (BOB) has become established as an excellent alternative orchard pollinator. They have a strong preference for fruit trees, are extremely efficient, and will forage and pollinate under cloudy skies and lower temperatures than most pollinators. They are easy to manage and rarely sting.

Wild Pollinators

conserving native bees on farmland 

Conserving Native Bees on Farmland
R. Isaacs & J. Tuell
MSU Extension, E-2986, May 2007

This fact sheet provides background on the biology of native bees and gives practical to guide growers who want to increase native bee abundance on their farms. 

attracting native pollinators

Attracting Native Pollinators: Protecting North America's Bees and Butterflies
Xerces Society, 2011

A dramatic expansion from Xerces's Pollinanator Conservation Handbook from 2003. This new publication provides more breadth and detail, reflecting the latest understanding about creating and managing pollinator habitat. Illustrated with hundreds of color photographs and dozens of specially created illustrations, Attracting Native Pollinators is divided into four detailed sections: Pollinators and Pollination, Taking Action, Bees of North America, and Creating a Pollinator-Friendly Landscape.

pollinator conservation resource center

Pollinator Conservation Resource Center
UC Davis, Xerces Society

Here you can find regional information about plant lists, habitat conservation guides, and more.

Habitat for Pollinators on Farms

attracting beneficial insects with native flowering plants 

Attracting Beneficial Insects with Native Flowering Plants
A. Fiedler, J. Tuell, R. Isaacs & D. Landis
MSU Extension, E-2973, January 2007

Conservation of natural enemies of insects (predators and parasitoids) and pollinators (bees) around the farm or garden can help supress pests and increase crop yields. Many beneficial insects rely on plants for nectar and pollen or shelter. By using native plants, we may be able to increase both pollination and pest control in agricultural crops while enhancing our native biodiversity.

farming for bees: guidelines for providing native bee habitat on farms

Farming for Bees: Guidelines for Providing Native Bee Habitat on Farms
M. Vaughan, J. Hopwood, E. Lee-Mader, M. Shepherd, C. Kremen, A. Stine & S.H. Black
Xerces Society, 2015

In 2006, the National Academy of Sciences published Status of Pollinators in North America. The report highlights the decline of both honey bees and native bees across North America, the causes and consequences of this decline, and makes recommendations on conservation steps that can be taken to slow or reverse pollinator loss. These Farming for Bees guidelines were highlighted in the report as an imporant tool for pollinator conservation and increasing populations of crop-pollinating native bees.

using 2014 farm bill programs for pollinator conservation

Using 2014 Farm Bill Programs for Pollinator Habitat
USDA-NRCS, Xerces Society; October 2015

The Farm Bill authorizes the USDA to undertake a broad range of incentive-based conservation programs on agricultural land, including the "development of of habitat for native and managed pollinators; and the use of conservation practices that encourage native and managed pollinators." Use this document to see how.

regional pollinator habitat installation guides

Regional Pollinator Habitat Installation Guides
Xerces Society

These region- and state-specific guides provide in-depth, practical guidance on how to install and maintain nectar- and pollen-rich habitat for pollinators in the form of wildflower meadow plantings / conservation cover or linear rows of native flowering shrubs / hedgerow plantings. Seed mixes and plant recommendations are listed for each reason.

creating and maintaining healthy pollinator habitat

Creating and Maintaining Healthy Pollinator Habitat: Guidance to Protect Habitat from Pesticide Contamination
A. Code, S.H. Black, M. Vaughan, & J. Hopwood
Xerces Society, updated November 2016

This guidance document was designed to help growers, land managers and others safeguard pollinator habitat from harmful pesticide contamination. It includes information on selecting habitat sites, as well as ways to maintain clean habitat by limiting and carefully managing pesticide use.

providing native habitat for native pollinators

Providing Habitat for Native Pollinators
Living on The Land Series
Karen Lamson, Rachel Suits, Brian Tuck, Susan Kerr, Ellen Hammond & Shilah Olson
OSU Extension, EC 1649, January 2017

This publication is part of the Living on the Land series. It provides concise information on how to attract and support native pollinators by creating and maintaining the right habitat, including features like nesting sites, quality food, and shelter from pesticides.

You can also listen to the Living on the Land podcast series on itunes.

Protecting Bees from Pesticides

minimizing pesticide risk to bees in fruit crops 

Minimizing Pesticide Risk to Bees in Fruit Crops
E. May, J. Wilson & R. Isaacs
MSU Extension, E-3245, May 2015

This publication draws on knowlege from bee biology, pesticide action, and farming practices to advise on a series of common-sense practices that growers can follow to reduce pesticide risk to bees. 

how to reduce bee poisoning from pesticides

How to Reduce Bee Poisoning from Pesticides
Louisa Hooven, Ramesh R. Sagili & Erik Johansen
OSU Extension, PNW 591, Revised March 2016

An overview of how a variety of wild and managed bees and their pollination activities are affected by pesticide application. Provides guidelines for how beekeepers, growers, and pesticide applicators can work together to prevent bee poisoning.

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