The Manitoba Museum – The Value of Fescue Prairie
Dr. Art Davis, Professor, University of Saskatchewan, and Melissa Pearn, Curatorial Assistant, The Manitoba Museum.
Canada’s prairies have become very rare as most of it has been converted to cropland. But scientists are finding that conserving and restoring native prairie can be good for agriculture. I’m out at Kernen Prairie, a patch of rare fescue prairie that’s owned by the University of Saskatchewan, just outside of Saskatoon, and with me today is Dr. Art Davis.
So Dr. Davis, how are wild plants and animals beneficial to humans?
Well, that’s a great question Melissa. Many insects and other animals are dependent solely on visiting flowers for nectar and pollen as food. And as they’re visiting those flowers, inadvertently they’re also moving pollen between the anthers of a flower and the stigma of the same species and without perhaps really knowing their importance to mankind, these animals are pollinating crops and many plants like in this more native setting.
So what would be a good example of a plant that feeds crop pollinators?
Well, we’re in the midst of several plants that depend on generalist pollinators. At this time of year, in late August now, it’s very common for members of the Asteraceae like asters and goldenrod and so on to be very eagerly visited by lots of insects.
So how important are wild pollinators to crop production? Can’t we just rely on domesticated honeybees?
Oh, that’s a very good question. Perhaps in decades past, we’ve relied so much on honeybees as pollinators. However, we’ve come to realize how vulnerable we are by depending so much on a single insect species as pollinator and in many environments like this one, it’s often a whole suite of different kinds of pollinating insects that are critical for optimum reproductive success in many of our angiosperms.
Well, thank you very much for talking to me today.
Oh. It’s my pleasure.
You’ve certainly given me something to think about.