Around the world, it is becoming increasingly popular to plant orchards within cities and towns. However, maintaining orchards in heavily populated areas poses several challenges. In particular, there needs to be sufficient insect pollinators to ensure fruiting success.
A team that received early support from the Living Earth Collaborative was awarded a $633,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to evaluate pollination in orchards across the city of St. Louis. They will examine how factors such as human population density, socioeconomic status, soil type and surrounding vegetation impact insect numbers and fruit yield.
The project team then plans to focus on nine St. Louis orchards to perform detailed experiments to test the effects of increasing pollinator numbers directly, by adding colonies of native bees, or indirectly, by adding blackberry stems and commercial bee houses that they can use as nesting sites.
This work represents a collaboration between four local universities, the Missouri Botanical Garden, the Saint Louis Zoo and the local nonprofit organization Gateway Greening.