Mustard Project to Help Pollinators  

Jim Jasinski (OSU Extension), Chia Lin & Reed Johnson (OSU Entomology), Hongmei Li-Byarlay (Central State University)

Brassica cover crops like mustard (Brassica juncea) and rapeseed (Brassica napus) can be a good fit in some production systems, providing a range of benefits such as soil health, soil biofumigation and pollinator health.

Blooming mustard crop.

Recently it was reported that the natural biocides (glucosinolate compounds) produced by mustard plants could mitigate infections of Nosema (a fungal parasite) in honey bee colonies.  If glucosinolates are present in mustard pollen, mustard blossoms may provide the dual benefits of food source and disease control for honey bees.

To test that hypothesis, a two-year multi-site research project led by Dr. Chia Lin was recently funded to look at the effects of spring (mid-April) and late summer (late July) planted mustard as a cover crop to provide abundant pollen to foraging bees in order to measure specific effects on colony health. Both lab and field studies will be used to identify how much mustard pollen is collected by the bees and beneficial aspects of the targeted mustard planting on reducing Nosema impact on honey bees and improving winter survival of bee colonies.  Stay tuned for updates on this project.

Mustard cover crop emerging from one of the research sites.

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