Genotype and environment effects on sunflower nectar and their relationships to crop pollination


  • Jarrad Prasifka USDA-ARS
  • Beth Ferguson United States Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service, Edward T. Schafer Agricultural Research Center, Sunflower and Plant Biology Research Unit, Fargo, ND, U.S.A.
  • Karen K. Fugate United States Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service, Edward T. Schafer Agricultural Research Center, Sugarbeet and Potato Research Unit, Fargo, ND, U.S.A.



floral rewards, plant-pollinator interactions, nectar, pollen, pollinator exclusion, bees


Whether caused by genotype (G) or environment (E), floral trait variation has consequences for plants and their pollinators. Cultivated sunflower is a model system to explore floral trait variation; though sunflowers are bred to self-pollinate, benefits of pollination by bees remain substantial. To better understand sunflower-pollinator interactions, experiments were conducted to: (i) examine genotype and environment effects on nectar quantity and quality under controlled conditions, and (ii) assess effects of bags used for pollinator exclusion on nectar quantity, quality and bee foraging in a field environment. Contrasting temperature treatments (28°C, 21°C, 28°C / 16°C) reveal environment effects or G × E interactions for nectar volume (µl / floret), concentration (°Brix), and sugar composition (% sucrose). Bags used to exclude sunflower pollinators resulted in nectar volumes greater than plants with unrestricted access for bees (= open-pollination), and in ≈ 5-fold increased visitation by wild bees after bags were removed. Differences in bee visits to plants that were previously bagged versus plants never bagged decreased over the 2 h following bag removal. Though genetic variation in sunflower nectar is affected by the environment and G × E interactions, improving pollination via plant breeding still appears feasible. Future research on intraspecific variation in pollen rewards could be helpful, especially because pollen has received little research compared to nectar. For research with nectar or pollen, it seems desirable to measure floral rewards with methods that don’t rely on pollinator exclusion (bags or cages), which should provide more realistic data on what pollinators experience while foraging.

Author Biography

Jarrad Prasifka, USDA-ARS




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How to Cite

Prasifka, J., Ferguson , B. ., & Fugate , K. K. (2023). Genotype and environment effects on sunflower nectar and their relationships to crop pollination. Journal of Pollination Ecology, 33, 54–63.




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