Native Plants Benefit Vegetables and Fruits Too

 You’ve heard of the many benefits of native plants for wildlife and water conservation, but incorporating native plants around edibles and farms, can provide some additional benefits. Below are some of the these benefits and a few links with more information:

1) Native plants attract more pollinators –   Native plants attract and support  many more  pollinators like native bees, flies, beetles, butterflies,  bats,  hummingbirds, and moths,  according to the Xerces Society, entomologist Douglas Tallamy and many other scientific studies.   This is because native plants have co-evolved and adapted to local pollinators  and are an important part of their habitat.

Bees on Smooth Blue Aster
Bees on Smooth Blue Aster (Aster laevis)

 Native bees, especially bumble bees,  are very efficient pollinators of many vegetable and fruit crops.   For example, the Xerces Society research showed that when native bees were present, the production of Sungold tomatoes almost tripled. And they provide this service for free as long as we provide habitat nearby!

To learn more about our native pollinators and the important role native plants,   please check out these websites:
Xerces Society Pollinator Conservation
To learn more about our native bees specifically:
Bee Basics: An Introduction to our Native Bees

2) Native plants attract many beneficial insects (or natural enemies of pests)   which provide biological control. Biological controls use living organisms to reduce pests instead of pesticides, and therefore are preferred over pesticides.   Native plants do this effectively by providing habitat for beneficial insects and enhancing biodiversity. 

To learn more about native plants and beneficials, check out:
Attracting Beneficials with Native Flowering Plants
Evaluation of Supplement Flowering Strips for Sustainable Enhancement of Beneficial Insects

3) Native Plants help reduce run-off – Native plants, especially the deep-rooted sun-loving prairie plants, help absorb run-off from irrigation, snow melt or rainfall. This in turn reduces flooding, soil erosion, sediment loss,  plus fertilizer and pesticide pollution. Creating buffer strips or rain gardens of native plant on your property to  intercept run-off can make a positive difference on our waterways.  Constructing wetlands for run off and nutrient filtering near farmlands in Illinois is occuring on a larger scale for the same reasons . See articles below for more information.

Buffer Strips: Common Sense Conservation
Combining Conservaton and Agriculture

So these are just a few more reasons to incorporate native plants, while enjoying the "fruits" of your labor and benefitting nature  and our waterways at the same time. – by Denise Sandoval, Conservation@Home Assistant

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