Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021
Do plant ploidy and pollinator tongue length interact to cause low seed yield in red clover?Hederstrom, Veronica; Rundlof, Maj; Birgersson, Goran; Larsson, Mattias C.; Balkenius, Anna; Lankinen, Asa
AbstractThe loss of long-tongued pollinator species and dominance of a few short-tongued generalist species, related to agricultural intensification in recent decades, may have consequences for the quality, quantity, and stability of yields in insect-pollinated crops. Interestingly, the changes in pollinator community coincide with an increase in poor and variable seed yield in red clover, an important crop for green manure and forage production. However, to date we lack a holistic understanding of the factors that drive seed yield in red clover crops. To remedy this, we related plant and pollinator traits to pollinator visitation, behavior, and pollination efficiency in four diploid and five tetraploid red clover cultivars during three years in a common garden setting. Tetraploid cultivars produced 52% fewer seeds and 41% lower seed weight per flower head compared with diploid cultivars. They also had fewer flower heads per plant, larger florets, and lower pollen viability than diploids. Pollinator species with shorter tongues visited diploid cultivars more frequently than tetraploid cultivars. Pollinator species with longer tongues deposited more pollen and showed higher pollination efficiency in terms of seeds produced after single visits. Our results suggest that while both diploid and tetraploid red clover cultivars benefit from the presence of longer-tongued pollinator species, seed yield in tetraploid cultivars may be more sensitive to the loss of these bumble bee species in intensively cultivated agricultural landscapes.
Keywordsploidy; pollinator efficiency; pollinator preference; pollinator tongue length; Trifolium pratense
2021, volume: 12, number: 3, article number: e03416
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