White-nose syndrome has been confirmed for the first time in Oklahoma, making it the 31st state with the deadly disease that affects hibernating bats. Bats play an important ecological role; each bat can eat up to 3,000 insects, including mosquitoes and agricultural pests, in a single night. Biologists are concerned about how white-nose syndrome will affect the bat populations in the future.
Studies Show Benefits of Native Vegetation Near Crops
Two new studies by researchers at the University of California highlight the benefits of keeping native vegetation and crop fields in close proximity.
In one, researchers found that hedgerows planted near tomato rows created habitat for natural enemies of insect pests, requiring fewer herbicide applications.
In recent years, clearing such non-crop vegetation from the vicinity of crop fields has been promoted as a food safety measure. However, the second study calls that practice into question. It found that the vegetable crops most likely to harbor pathogenic bacteria like E. coli and salmonella were those around which non-crop vegetation had been cleared to the greatest extent.
The Kerr Center’s Cannon Horticulture Project is already taking advantage of perennial non-crop plants, not only near its vegetable plots, but actually inside them. (Sign up for our elderberry workshop for a close-up look.) Still, it’s always nice to hear from the scientists that we’re on the right track.