This paper was originally published on The Royal Society


Abstract: Yield production in flowering crops depends on both nutrient availability and pollination, but their relative roles and potential interactions are poorly understood. We measured pollination benefits to yield in sunflower, combining a gradient in insect pollination (0, 25, 50, 100%) with a continuous gradient in nitrogen (N) fertilization (from 0 to 150 kg N ha−1) in an experiment under realistic soil field conditions.

We found that pollination benefits to yield were maximized at intermediate levels of N availability, bolstering yield by approximately 25% compared with complete pollinator exclusion. Interestingly, we found little decrease in yield when insect visits were reduced by 50%, indicating that the incremental contribution of pollination by insects to yield is greater when the baseline pollination service provision is very low. Our findings provide strong evidence for interactive, nonlinear effects of pollination and resource availability on seed production. Our results support ecological intensification as a promising strategy for sustainable management of agroecosystems. In particular, we found optimal level of pollination to potentially compensate for lower N applications….”

Read on and access the full paper at: The Royal Society.