Ecosystem services, such as pollination of crops by wild insects, are playing an increasingly important role in the challenge to meet the rising demands for agricultural products while minimizing the negative environmental impacts of the production process. However, more insight is required in fundamental ecological processes to fully capitalize on the benefits provided by nature. Here we examine how wild pollinators can be used to replace or supplement traditional agricultural inputs such as fertilizers and irrigation. We use hybrid leek ( Allium porrum) seed production in southern Europe as our model system because here the variation in agricultural practices, environmental conditions and abundance and species richness of pollinators is well-suited for studies addressing these questions. This furthermore allows for the results of the studies to be implemented directly in the leek seed production system of a major vegetable seed producer. We examine contribution of pollinators to seed production relative to that of agricultural management and how the direct effects of agricultural management on seed production, through provision of agro-chemicals and water, interact with pollination services provided by pollinators. We furthermore examine whether abundance or species richness is more important for pollination service delivery in real-world landscapes. The insights of these studies will be used to formulate effective strategies that combine the effects of pollinators and agricultural inputs to cost-effectively optimize leek seed production as well as promote wild pollinators.
Many interesting thesis subjects are possible within this study! http://tip.wur.nl/Project.php?ProjectID=3160