Evaluating the Impacts of Border Vegetation Patterns on Multifunctional Biodiversity and Crop Production in Washington Blueberry
CSANR Project 171
Herbaceous flowering or woody plant borders are controversial in commercial blueberry production. Border vegetation has the potential to increase populations of native pollinators and beneficial insects and birds that feed on key blueberry pests, such as spotted wing drosophila (SWD); however, they may also draw pollinators away from the crop, serve as overwintering and/or refugia sites for SWD, and increase populations of wild birds that feed on fruit and transmit foodborne pathogens. The objective of this project is to explore the impacts of border vegetation adjacent to commercial blueberry fields on multifunctional biodiversity, with an emphasis on pollination services, populations of beneficial and pest insect and bird species, and crop production. The hypothesis is that vegetation adjacent to blueberry plantings will increase multifunctional biodiversity and associated benefits, which will be measured as increased pollinator activity, increased populations of beneficial insects and insect-eating birds (i.e., potential for biocontrol), and enhanced crop productivity relative to plantings without adjacent border vegetation. However, we also hypothesize that adjacent vegetation will provide refugia for SWD and problematic birds (i.e., species that eat fruit or transmit food-borne pathogens) that may limit the benefits of border vegetation. We will test our hypotheses by comparing pollination, populations of beneficial and pest insect (including SWD) and wild bird species, and production attributes of blueberry grown with or without adjacent border vegetation on commercial farms in Washington. This project complements BIOAg principles in that it seeks to investigate biologically-intensive approaches to enhance whole farm sustainability. It also aligns with WSU Grand Challenges, Sustainable Resources.