Both biotic and abiotic factors can affect soil quality, which can significantly impact plant growth, productivity, and resistance to pests. However, the effects of soil quality on the interactions of plants with beneficial arthropods, such as pollinators, have not been extensively examined. We studied the effects of vermicompost (earthworm compost, VC) soil amendment on behavioral and physiological responses of pollinators to flowers and floral resources, using cucumbers, Cucumis sativus, as our model system. Results from experiments conducted over three field seasons demonstrated that, in at least two out of three years, VC amendment significantly increased visit length, while reducing the time to first discovery. Bumblebee (Bombus impatiens) workers that fed on flowers from VC-amended plants had significantly larger and more active ovaries, a measure of nutritional quality. Pollen fractions of flowers from VC-grown plants had higher protein compared to those of plants grown in chemically fertilized potting soil. Nectar sugar content also tended to be higher in flowers from VC-grown plants, but differences were not statistically significant. In conclusion, soil quality enhancement, as achieved with VC amendment in this study, can significantly affect plant-pollinator interactions and directly influences pollinator nutrition and overall performance.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Insect Science