Investigating pollinator possibilities in golf

By |  October 22, 2014 0 Comments

The scientific community has provided clear and strong evidence that wild bee communities are changing in their composition and abundance. In addition, managed honeybee colonies continue to face high rates of mortality, which result in ever-increasing costs for beekeepers.

It is becoming widely accepted that the challenges faced by both wild and managed bees are caused by a number of interacting factors. One factor is the decline of suitable forage plants due to human-driven landscape change. This effect is often referred to as landscape simplification.

Pollinator conservation efforts to supplement foraging resources have classically focused on rural areas and cropland borders. One often-overlooked sector of agriculture is turfgrass. Turfgrass is cultivated on 40 million acres nationwide and in a variety of urban and rural landscapes. This acreage represents one of the largest managed horticultural sectors in the nation. While typically managed as a monoculture, changing cultural perspectives in tandem with increased public concern for pollinators have created interest in how this managed environment may be utilized for pollinator conservation.

To date there have been few formal studies on methods for incorporating appropriate pollinator forage plants into golf courses and lawns, how management practices affect flower blooms, or how such areas would impact pollinator communities. Ongoing studies at the University of Minnesota, started in the summer of 2014, seek to investigate these questions in order to capitalize on this relatively untapped landscape for the conservation of bee populations.

Our inquiries have focused on grass species selection, seeding strategies, native and naturalized forage plants, and the effect of mowing practices on establishment and blooming. We look forward to sharing our results with the golf industry after the study is completed in 2015.

Ian Lane, M.S. degree candidate, Eric Watkins, Ph.D. and Marla Spivak, Ph.D., are at the University of Minnesota. Lane can be contacted at lanex173@umn.edu for more information.

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