Pollination Support for Gardens, Orchards and Farms

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by permaship, Feb 7, 2017.

  1. permaship

    permaship Junior Member

    Nov 5, 2009
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    Hi All

    We're extending our Polyculture Project to include experimental perennial polycultures. Our aim is to develop models that are low cost to establish and maintain, can produce healthy affordable nutritious food and will enhance biodiversity.

    To view this post with photos, illustrations and tables follow the below link

    This spring we'll be including the Early Polleniser Polyculture as presented here. The design aims to provide pollination support for farms and gardens, yields of nutritious fruits and nuts, valuable nesting sites for endangered native bees, and spectacular flower displays to shake off the winter blues [​IMG]

    As the title suggests the primary purpose of the Early Polleniser Polyculture is to provide an early source of pollen/nectar to a wide diversity of pollinating insects. The majority of the plants in this polyculture bloom when there is little other sources of nectar/pollen available. This encourages pollinating insects in and around our gardens to fulfill their vital role when the crops (particularly fruit trees) start to flower in the early spring.

    The polyculture also provides a source of produce in its own right and with proper cultivar selection and plant care, should provide high yields of nutritious fruits and nuts as well as habitat for a wide range of wildlife and pollinators.

    The Early Polleniser Polyculture

    Before we go any further I'll quickly clarify the meaning of the term Polleniser.

    A polleniser (sometimes pollenizer, pollinizer or polliniser) is simply a plant that provides pollen. The word pollinator is often mistakenly used instead of polleniser, but a pollinator is the biotic agent that moves the pollen, such as bees, moths, bats, and birds. Bees are thus often referred to as 'pollinating insects'.

    Bee (Pollinator) and flowering plant (Polleniser)

    Flowering Period

    All species included in the polyculture apart from Trifolium repens - White Clover, flower during the months of January - March and provide valuable pollen or nectar forage for bees and other pollinators during this period.

    Early Polleniser Guild species in flower

    Design Considerations

    Design Goals - As well as pollination support, wildlife habitat and fruit production the design goals include
    For the polyculture to be functional on marginal sites i.e shady areas, low fertility soils, areas exposed to wind. The early polleniser guild is primarily a support polyculture with the primary function of providing main crops with pollination support so we may not want to allocate the most productive land to it.
    That the polyculture should have relatively low time/cost inputs. Once established the polyculture should require little to no external fertility and approx. 5-7 hrs of maintenance per year in the late autumn. (not including harvest times). Maintenance and management of this polyculture is further discussed below.
    That the polyculture can be of use on a small and broad scale. The design presented above represents one unit and can work well "stand alone" in any garden. Multiple units of this polyculture can also be used in orchards and farms to provide better pollination coverage for the crops. (see layout options below)

    Light and Aspect - All of the plants included tolerate some shade or utilise light when other plants are not in demand of it. The polyculture can therefore be positioned on marginal areas with lower light levels whilst still serving a purpose, however if you would like to obtain maximum pollinator attraction and a higher yield of fruits and nuts, choose a site with at least 6 - 8 hrs a day and orientate from east - west.

    Water - Optimal irrigation is a key to healthy and productive plants. This polyculture is not well suited to semi wetlands and areas with a high water table and will not thrive in very dry areas with no access to irrigation. In dry climates irrigation will be essential but selecting a position for the polyculture that maximizes the absorption of rainfall will help considerably and can be achieved by planting on contour and using simple earthworks to keep rain water around the root zones of plants.

    N.B. All of the plants are relatively drought tolerant but the fruiting plants will not be high yielding without proper irrigation.

    Access - Access from within the polyculture is required for pruning, weeding and harvesting. Two 50 cm wide paths running within and parallel to each other provide this access. The periphery of the polyculture should also be accessible from the outside.

    Pollinator Habitat - Native bees are very important pollinators and are some the most endangered species in our ecosystems . Including habitat for the bees to nest as well as providing good quality forage is essential, accordingly this polyculture includes bee nesting habitat, but having other such habitat around a site is recommended.

    Species Selection - Our plant selection takes into account the following;
    Climatic compatibility with the site
    Drought tolerance
    Shade Tolerance
    Early nectar/pollen provision
    Other benefits to wildlife and production for humans
    Flowering periods that do not have significant overlap with crops on the site.
    Shrub species that respond well to regular pruning/coppicing

    Proximity to crops - Bees will forage where high quality food is available and presumably shorter foraging trips are both safer and more energy-efficient for all bees. Studies show that Honey Bees - Apis spp. will forage many kms away from nesting sites. Bumblebees - Bombus spp. and most solitary bees will typically forage much shorter distances, according to some reports 100 m - 800 m.

    Given that there is little consensus within studies of pollinator foraging behaviour, it's difficult to state how far from the crops and to what density this polyculture should be used to achieve the best pollination results. As a presumptive guide, in areas where suitable forage and nesting habitat is lacking assume a beneficial radius of 100 - 300 m and in areas where there are lots of established early forage and nesting sites assume a beneficial radius of 500 m - 1000 m. You can never really have too much early pollinator forage available, but you can have too little. Priorities of budget and time, and the crops that are being grown are other factors that will guide unit quantity and crop proximity decisions.

    It's worth noting that plants are in competition for pollinators attention and for this reason the flowering period of the plants in the polyculture do not overlap significantly with crop plants.

    Location/Layout - The polyculture unit presented above can work well as a stand alone unit in any garden. Multiple units of this polyculture can also be used in orchards and farms to provide better pollination coverage for the crops. Below you can find three suggested layouts for the broad scale application of this polyculture 1.Border, 2 Island and 3 Alley.

    1.Border Layout - The polyculture can be planted on the inside of a fence or outside of a track to form a "wrap around" for the entire orchard/market garden etc. or for subdivision boundaries within a site. Being composed of shade tolerant plants the polyculture will, to some extent, function regardless of aspect. Each unit as pictured above can be repeated to form a border planting.

    2. Island Layout - The island layout intersperses the units around the site. For already developed sites the islands can be positioned in difficult to access nooks and corners, shady spots and areas of marginal value, or on the periphery of crops that will benefit the most from enhanced pollination.

    3. Alley Layout - The alley layout entails planting the polycultures in an alley cropping or orchard system at intervals among the main crops. For example, an apple and pear orchard may have every 10th row composed of early polleniser units.

    So lets take a closer look at the species involved and the management and maintenance tasks required for this polyculture

    The Polyculture Components

    I've divided the polyculture into 5 main components based on the purpose that each component serves.

    Fruiting Trees and Shrubs
    Ground Cover
    Early Flowering Bulbs
    Fertility Plants
    Pollinator Habitat

    Run out of room here - for the full post see https://balkanecologyproject.blogspot.bg/2017/01/the-early-polleniser-polyculture.html


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