Bee-utiful Blooms

By Katie Pratt, University of Kentucky The mAGazine

An old Kentucky agricultural staple could help improve pollinator decline. 

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Rich Mundell, an agronomist with the Kentucky Tobacco Research and Development Center, has developed a hybrid tobacco line that flowers continuously from mid-July until frost and produces high volumes of nectar. The nectar does not contain nicotine, making it safe for pollinators.

Mundell originally bred the tobacco line specifically for producing plant-made pharmaceuticals. While making field observations in 2007, he noticed he was covered with a clear fluid that, when dried on his skin, resembled crystallized sugar. Further investigation revealed the slightly opaque substance to be nectar with high sugar content.

Mundell is currently working with several beekeepers in the state to evaluate the plant with their bee colonies.

“This plant could be an excellent source of natural nectar that is available when most other spring flowering plants are no longer in bloom,” he said.

Photo by Stephen Patton.