Two Bee-Pollinated Plant Species Show Higher Seed Production when Grown in Gardens Compared to Arable Farmland
Insect pollinator abundance, in particular that of bees, has been shown to be high where there is a super-abundance of floral resources; for example in association with mass-flowering crops and also in gardens where flowering plants are often densely planted. Since land management affects pollinator numbers, it is also likely to affect the resultant pollination of plants growing in these habitats. We hypothesised that the seed or fruit set of two plant species, typically pollinated by bumblebees and/or honeybees might respond in one of two ways: 1) pollination success could be reduced when growing in a floriferous environment, via competition for pollinators, or 2) pollination success could be enhanced because of increased pollinator abundance in the vicinity.
We compared the pollination success of experimental plants of Glechoma hederacea L. and Lotus corniculatus L. growing in gardens and arable farmland. On the farms, the plants were placed either next to a mass-flowering crop (oilseed rape, Brassica napus L. or field beans, Vicia faba L.) or next to a cereal crop (wheat, Triticum spp.). Seed set of G. hederacea and fruit set of L. corniculatus were significantly higher in gardens compared to arable farmland. There was no significant difference in pollination success of G. hederacea when grown next to different crops, but for L. corniculatus, fruit set was higher in the plants growing next to oilseed rape when the crop was in flower.
The results show that pollination services can limit fruit set of wild plants in arable farmland, but there is some evidence that the presence of a flowering crop can facilitate their pollination (depending on species and season). We have also demonstrated that gardens are not only beneficial to pollinators, but also to the process of pollination.