Bee abundance and soil nitrogen availability interactively modulate apple quality and quantity in intensive agricultural landscapes of China

Panlong Wu, Teja Tscharntke, Catrin Westphal, Meina Wang, Aruhan Olhnuud, Huanli Xu, Zhenrong Yu, Wopke van der Werf, Yunhui Liu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Bees provide important pollination services for crops, but pollination limitation is a common problem in agricultural landscapes worldwide. To promote ecological intensification in fruit production, more knowledge is needed concerning the interacting effects of insect pollination services and soil fertility on crop quality and quantity. We investigated the effects of three pollination treatments (open, self and hand pollination) on apple quantity and quality parameters. We also analyzed the effects of bee abundance (wild bees and managed honeybees (Apis mellifera)) and soil nitrogen on fruit quantity and quality, and the responses of bee abundance and species richness to landscape metrics. Apple fruit set and yield of open pollinated flowers increased by 57 % and 25 t/ha (compared to bagged controls), respectively. Hand pollination further enhanced yields by 7 t/ha (compared to open pollination; i.e. to 39 t/ha), indicating pollination limitation in the orchards. Seed number was highest in open pollinated fruits, and increased with bee abundance if soil nitrogen was low, but decreased with bee abundance at high nitrogen levels, possibly due to higher flower density resulting in pollinator dilution effects. Higher seed numbers reduced the proportion of deformed apples and thus increased fruit quality. The percent of surrounding semi-natural habitats positively affected species richness of wild bees in apple orchards. We conclude that yield and quality of apples may benefit from ecological intensification comprising the augmentation of wild bees by semi-natural habitat and lowering of fertilizer inputs.
Original languageEnglish
Article number107168
JournalAgriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
Volume305
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2021

Keywords

  • Ecological intensification
  • Landscape composition
  • Pollinator
  • Robinia forests

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