The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded $6.9 million to Michigan State University to develop sustainable methods to help enhance native bees as pollinators.

The grant was funded through the 2014 Farm Bill's Specialty Crop Research Initiative, according to a news release.

Entomology researcher Rufus Isaacs will lead the project, which will involve developing integrated crop pollination recommendations.

The funding will help underwrite existing work by a team of 50 researchers nationwide.

“We have established and measured bees and crop yields in more than 100 fields at farms from California to Pennsylvania, some pollinated with honey bees, some with wildflower habitat added for pollinators and some augmented with other types of managed bees," Isaacs said in the release.

Michigan State receives $6.9 million to continue native bee workThe team will continue to monitor fields and compare the performance, economics and social aspects of these tactics. Iin addition, they will develop educational and decision-support information for specialty crop pollination.

The work also will include:

• Identifying economically valuable pollinators and the factors that affect their abundance;

• Developing habitat management practices to improve crop pollination;

• Demonstrating and delivering integrated crop pollination practices to specialty crop growers; and

• Analyzing the economics and modeling of pollination ecosystem services.

The team also includes researchers from Loyola University, Franklin and Marshall College, Penn State University, University of Florida, University of Vermont, the Xerces Society, University of California-Davis, UC Berkeley, the USDA Agricultural Research Service and Pacific Pollination—a private company.

In addition, a large number of collaborating growers will provide in-kind support.