UCR Researchers Receive Grant to Improve Pollinator Health

Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research award will identify best management practices to protect bees

This image shows UCR researchers conducting a field study on pollinator health at an almond field in California’s Central Valley.

UCR researchers conducting a field study on pollinator health at an almond field in California’s Central Valley.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) — A team of researchers at the University of California, Riverside, have received a $490,000 Pollinator Health Fund grant from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR). The grant will support a study measuring the effectiveness of recommended almond orchard management practices in reducing the negative impacts of pesticides, parasites, and inadequate nutrition on bees.

With matching funds from UCR’s Office of Research and Economic Development, College of Natural & Agricultural Sciences, and Department of Entomology, the project will total almost $1 million.

Lauren Ponisio, Quinn McFrederick, and Hollis Woodard, all assistant professors of entomology at UCR, are examining how management practices in almond orchards affect the interacting risks of inadequate bee nutrition, pesticide exposure, and parasites.

This image is a headshot of Lauren Ponisio, assistant professor of entomology at UCR.

Lauren Ponisio, assistant professor of entomology at UCR.

“Determining whether recommended pollinator-friendly practices are successfully improving bee health and crop pollination will have important outcomes for farm managers deciding whether to employ those practices,” Ponisio said.

In recent years, Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) in honeybees and pollinator declines in general have become serious environmental concerns that could threaten the functioning of natural ecosystems and affect the production of important crops, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Insect pollinators contribute an estimated 24 billion dollars to the U.S. economy annually.

FFAR, a nonprofit established through bipartisan congressional support in the 2014 Farm Bill, established its Pollinator Health Fund in response to the agricultural threat posed by declining pollinator health.

“Managed and native pollinators are vital to many crop production systems and the ecological resources that support them,” said Sally Rockey, executive director of FFAR. “The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research looks forward to results that will inform science-based approaches to improving pollinator health.”

UCR is one of 16 grantee organizations who received a total of $7 million in FFAR funding toward research and technology development addressing the social and economic challenges faced by beekeepers, farmers, ranchers, private businesses, and others to contribute to a healthy pollinator population that supports crop yields and agricultural ecosystems.

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