Wildflowers

Eric Middleton

Research Q & A

What’s your hometown?

Salt Lake City, Utah.

What are you currently working on?

I am studying wildflowers plantings established around agricultural fields, and how they can be used to conserve pollinators and beneficial insect predators.

How are you working toward that goal?

Currently, I am writing up my results, as I finished all my field work this past summer. However, in order to determine the effect of wildflower plantings on beneficial insects, we compared field margins and cropping areas with wildflowers planted to those without. We sampled and identified numerous pollinators, predators, and herbivores, including potential crop pests. So far, we have found that wildflower plantings promote both pollinators and predators while not increasing herbivore numbers. Not only do these help conserve good bugs, but also do not support crop pests that could harm growers.

Why are you focusing your work in that area?

Habitat loss due to agriculture is a big reason why many species are disappearing worldwide, so focusing on ways to make agriculture less impactful to ecosystems is very important. Wildflower plantings can provide sources of food and habitat for insects in areas where they would normally be unable to survive or thrive. Hopefully this research can help make our means of food production more sustainable and preserve biodiversity.

Where are you working on research/field work?

My research was conducted in and around commercial potato fields in central Minnesota, around Wadena, Perham, and Park Rapids.

What will your next steps/research be?

I’m planning on finishing up my Ph.D. in May, and publishing my results before then. After graduation, I’d like to keep studying the intersection of agriculture and conservation, and find more ways to make sure we both produce enough food to feed the planet, and also leave behind healthy ecosystems for future generations.

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