Creating a decision support model for wild blueberry production returns and pollination services
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One agriculture sector that has been greatly affected by a decline in honeybees in the past 2 decades has been the blueberry industry. Blueberries are flowering plants that are dependent on bees for cross pollination. This project was aimed at contributing to the development of a decision support model to aid wild blueberry farmers in Prince Edward Island to quantify their current production costs and increase their understanding of the links between blueberry yield and bee pollination by species. This was done by a) determining the links between blueberry yield and bee pollination, b) calculating the effects of pesticide use on bee abundance c) creating a baseline budget which tallied all of the farmer’s costs for a 2 year blueberry production cycle, and incorporated links between yield and bee pollination of their fields, and d) validating the results of this study with blueberry farmers. Methods of data collection and analysis were both quantitative, while qualitative methods were used to validate the results. Results showed the native bees (bumblebees and Andrena) were much better pollinators than the managed honeybees and leafcutting bees for wild blueberries. Most pesticides used on these farms were highly toxic to bees. Furthermore, many farmers have limited knowledge of creating baseline budgets and therefore may not even know whether their crops are profitable. I recommended that farmers should put more emphasis on increasing the native bee populations in their fields, switch to using low toxicity pesticides when possible and take the time to learn to use baseline budgets to increase their awareness of the financial status of their fields.