An analysis of the energetic reward offered by field bean (Vicia faba) flowers: nectar, pollen and operative force

11 Jan 2018

Global consumption of crops with a yield that is dependent on animal pollinators is growing, with greater areas planted each year. However, the floral traits that influence pollinator visitation are not usually the focus of breeding programmes and therefore it is likely that yield improvements may be made by optimizing floral traits to enhance pollinator visitation rates. We investigated the variation present in the floral reward of the bee pollinated crop Vicia faba (field bean). We examined the genetic potential for breeding flowers with a greater reward into current commercial varieties and used bee behavioural experiments to gain insight into the optimal nectar concentration to maximize bee preference. There was a large range of variation in the amount of pollen and nectar reward of flowers in the genotypes investigated. Bee behavioural experiments using nectar concentrations found in V. faba lines suggest that Bombus terrestris prefers 55% w/w sugar solution over 40% w/w, but has no preference between 55% w/w and 68% w/w sugar solution. We provide a first indication of the force required to open V. faba flowers. Our results provide a valuable starting point towards breeding for varieties with optimized floral reward. Field studies are now needed to verify whether the genetic potential for breeding more rewarding flowers can translate into higher yield and yield stability.