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June 11, 2014

Fruits of summer

June 11, 2014

Ahhh…the warm weather has finally arrived and I couldn’t be happier. The sun, the warmth, open windows, flowers, long days and outside activities all just put me in a better mood. Another one of my favorite things about summer is the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables.

There’s nothing better than sitting outside on a summer day to enjoy the sun and eat lunch. Imagine some greens topped with avocado, cucumbers and almonds. Follow that up with a fruit bowl overflowing with apples, blueberries, cherries, watermelon, peaches, blackberries, raspberries, cantaloupe, pears and plums.

Now imagine a pesky honeybee buzzing around and interrupting your peaceful meal. I’m guessing your first instinct is to swat around at it or possibly trying to squash it. Time out. Before you curse your pesky new friend, take a moment and imagine something else.

Without that honeybee’s existence, you would literally be eating just a bowl of greens. That’s it. Just greens. Without bees and pollination, all those other crops are at risk of disappearing. All of a sudden, lunch got a whole lot less tasty. Who wants just a bowl of greens? (Lettuce is the only thing I’ve seen my dog ever spit out).

It sounds kind of unbelievable but it could actually happen. A phenomenon called colony collapse is afflicting bee colonies throughout the country and putting crops at risk as a result. And it’s not just a food problem—our economy depends on them, too.

But don’t resign yourself to just greens yet. MSU researchers, as usual, are on the job to solve the problem.

Researchers at MSU, along with colleagues from 15 institutions throughout the country are part of a project called the Integrated Crop Pollination project. The project is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is looking at alternative pollination strategies.

Read the beautiful new MSUToday feature, Plan Bee, to learn about this important work and the MSU researchers involved.

One of those researchers is Rufus Isaacs. Isaacs is a professor of entomology and is actually leading the ICP project. Read his FACULTY VOICE: Research Creates Buzz, to learn more about him and his work.

Clearly the honeybee problem is not just a Michigan problem, but its effect on Michigan’s economy could be devastating given our large agricultural industry. MSU has a long history of working through research and partnerships to keep that industry successful—particularly through AgBioResearch and Extension. In fact, MSU plays a key role in the state’s annual $91.4 billion food and agriculture system through partnerships, research and educational programs in all 83 counties. Learn more about MSU’s impact across the state by visiting MI Spartan Impact.

Here at MSU, students have many opportunities to explore ways that they might use research to solve a problem or make a difference. Study Away programs allow students to leave campus and take part in field studies at research locations in the United States.

Kayla Hoppe, a senior
 in MSU's Lyman Briggs College studying biomedical laboratory science, used her spring break this year to participate in a Study Away program at the Friday Harbor Laboratories, one of the oldest marine labs in the country, located near Seattle. Though not a marine biologist, the experience gave her the opportunity to live and learn in a different way. Read her STUDENT VIEW: Friday Harbor Study Away, to learn about her studies.

Now, back to lunch. Luckily, I have more than just greens to enjoy today. And with MSU researchers on the hunt to solve the honeybee problem, I’m anticipating enjoying the fruits of summer for a long, long time.

Spartans Will.


Lisa Mulcrone
Editor, MSUToday


Photo by Kurt Stepnitz


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