Optimizing coffee production: increased floral visitation and bean quality at plantation edges with wild pollinators and natural vegetation.

Published online
15 Jun 2024
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Machado, A. C. P. & Baronio, G. J. & Novaes, C. S. & Ollerton, J. & Torres, M. W. & Lopes, D. N. S. & Rech, A. R.
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Publication language
Minas Gerais & Brazil


Animal pollination is important for more than 75% of agricultural crops, including coffee, whose productivity can increase with adequate pollination. Bees, including many solitary species, are diverse pollinators, with around 85% of them considered more effective than honeybees in pollen transfer. We assessed the coffee plantation and its surrounding vegetation for solitary bee nesting throughout the coffee flowering season and measured their impact on coffee productivity. We installed collection stations with trap nests inside a coffee plantation, on the border and inside the native vegetation in a farm in Diamantina, MG, Brazil. We used 10 weekly monitored replicates at least 1 km apart. We evaluated fruiting by autogamy in relation to natural pollination and used the increase in fruit set from pollinators to calculate the farmer's monetary gain. We recorded bee visits to the exposed flowers during coffee flowering considering both on the edge and inside the coffee plantation. Ripe fruits were dried, counted and weighed. We discovered 132 solitary bee nests outside the plantation, with 54% containing coffee pollen grains, indicating coffee as an essential resource for bees even outside the crop area. More bee visits occurred at the coffee plantation's edge, resulting in increased fruit production, denser fruits, and rounder fruits in that area. Bagged flowers produced consistent seeds in all locations. The farmer could earn an extra US$1736.37 per hectare if the entire area received the same level of pollination contribution from bees as observed at the coffee border. Synthesis and applications. Our study emphasises the key role of pollinators in coffee production and their impact on fruit and seed characteristics. Bee visits were more frequent on border areas, emphasising their reliance on natural nesting sites. Bee-mediated pollination positively affected fruit traits and self-pollinated fruits in plantation borders had reduced mass. Solitary bee nesting was primarily observed in native vegetation, underlining its importance for bee populations. Pollen composition in nests varied with proximity to coffee plantations, indicating landscape vegetation influences pollinator foraging. These findings support optimising coffee plantation design by preserving native vegetation to increase coffee yields and conserve biodiversity.

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