Water availability affects nectar sugar production and insect visitation of the cup plant Silphium perfoliatum L. (Asteraceae)
The perennial cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum L.) is considered as an alternative feedstock to maize for biogas plants. Due to its ecological advantages of an extensive management and function as food resource for pollinators, it can be grown in Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) since 2018. However, studies at the Julius Kühn- Institute in Braunschweig (Germany) showed that the assumed advantage of the cup plant of a high drought tolerance could not be confirmed regarding aspects of crop production and yield. We complemented this experiment by assessing how different soil moisture conditions affect the production of floral resources and insect visitation. In 2014, we sampled three irrigated and three rainfed plots of the cup plant. We quantified the nectar volume and sugar mass per inflorescence, the number of inflorescences per plant and calculated the total nectar sugar production. We further counted insect visitation on the inflorescences. Due to reduced numbers of inflorescences per plant and an earlier harvest, the estimated nectar sugar production was 58 kg/ha regarding irrigated and 20 kg/ha regarding rainfed plots. Honeybee visitation per inflorescence was about twice as high in the irrigated plots. Furthermore, the early harvest is a disadvantage for wild pollinators with a late activity period.
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