Importance of bee pollination for cotton production in conventional and organic farms in Brazil
This study aimed to evaluate the importance of wild bee and feral honeybee visits for cotton production on conventional and organic farms. Experiments were conducted in Brazil, on a conventional cotton farm in Mato Grosso state in the Amazon biome and on an organic farm in Paraíba state in the Caatinga biome. On the conventional farm, bee assemblage and cotton production were measured near to and far from natural vegetation. Bee richness, fibre fraction, seed number and yield (Kg/ha) were higher by 57.14, 1.95, 17.77 and 18.44% respectively in plots near natural vegetation, but bee abundance did not vary with distance to natural vegetation. On the organic farm, because the cropping area is surrounded by natural vegetation, pollination deficit was evaluated using an exclusion experiment where cotton production of flowers bagged to prevent bee visitation (spontaneous self-pollination) was compared to production of flowers open to bee visitation (open pollination). Open pollinated flowers had higher average boll weight, fibre weight and seed number. Although cotton is not directly dependent on bee pollination, bees increased cotton production on the organic farm by more than 12% for fibre weight and over 17% for seed number. Our data confirm the importance of maintaining communities of pollinators on cotton farms, especially for organic production.
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