To find out how pollinator services from bumblebees affect crop production in Seattle’s urban community gardens, we study cherry tomato yield. Cherry tomatoes can produce some fruits through self-pollination, but the number and size of fruits increases when they are buzz pollinated by bumblebees (honeybees and many other bees can’t buzz pollinate). We look at differences in pollination efficiency and bee abundance between different urban farming locations. Using the yield of cherry tomatoes as a proxy, we will determine which features of the urban landscape (land use, pesticide use, etc) most affect bee abundance and consequent urban crop yield.
We study this urban pollination using citizen science. Citizen science is a fairly new model, in which scientists and interested volunteers from the public (“citizen scientists”) collaborate to find the answers to research questions that are important to both. Our volunteers grow tomatoes, observe and identify pollinators, and collect data.
Volunteer citizen scientists, including P-patch gardeners and K-12 classrooms from all over the city, will grow 3 experimental tomato plants: an open-pollinated control (a regular plant), a self-pollinated plant (covered with a net so bees cannot pollinate flowers), and a plant that receives extra “buzz pollination” with a tuning fork.
The funds will be used to cover the costs of managing the volunteers, such as gas money to get to the p-patches.