Landscape structure and farming management interacts to modulate pollination supply and crop production in blueberries.

Published online
21 May 2024
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Ramírez-Mejía, A. F. & Blendinger, P. G. & Woodcock, B. A. & Schmucki, R. & Escobar, L. & Morton, R. D. & Vieli, L. & Nunes-Silva, P. & Lomáscolo, S. B. & Morales, C. L. & Murúa, M. & Agostini, K. & Chacoff, N. P.
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Pollination services are affected by landscape context, farming management and pollinator community structure, all of which impact flower visitation rates, pollen deposition and final production. We studied these processes in Argentina for highbush blueberry crops, which depend on pollinators to produce marketable yields. We studied how land cover and honeybee stocking influence the abundance of wild and managed pollinators in blueberry crops, using structural equation modelling to disentangle the cascading effects through which pollinators contribute to blueberry fruit number, size, nutritional content and overall yield. All pollinator functional groups responded to landscape changes at a spatial scale under 1000 m, and the significance or direction of the effects were modulated by the field-level deployment of honeybee hives. Fruit diameter increased with pollen deposited, but decreased with honeybee abundance, which, had indirect effects on fruit acidity. Honeybees had a positive effect on the number of fruit produced by the plants and also benefited the overall yield (kg plant-1) through independent effects on both the quality and quantity components of fruit production. Synthesis and applications. Deployment of beehives in blueberry fields can buffer, but not compensate for the negative effects on honeybee abundance produced by surrounding large scale none-flowering crops. Such compensation would require high-quality beehives by monitoring their health and strength. The contribution of honeybees to crop production is not equal across production metrics. That is, higher abundance of honeybees increases the number of berries produced but at the cost of smaller and more acidic fruits, potentially reducing their market value. Growers must consider this trade-off between fruit quantity and quality when actively managing honeybee abundance.

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