Pollination in crops, as in native ecosystems, is a stepwise process that can be disrupted at any stage. Healthy pollinator populations are critical for adequate visitation, but pollination still might fail if crop management interferes with the attraction and retention of pollinators. Farmers must balance the direct benefits of applying insecticide and managing irrigation rates against their potential to indirectly interfere with the pollination process. We investigated these issues in hybrid onion seed production, where previous research has shown that high insecticide use reduces pollinator attraction. We conducted field surveys of soil moisture, nectar production, pollinator visitation, pollen—stigma interactions, and seed set at multiple commercial fields across 2 yr.We then examined how management actions, such as irrigation rate (approximated by soil moisture), or insecticide use could affect the pollination process. Onions produced maximum nectar at intermediate soil moisture, and high nectar production attracted more pollinators. Insecticide use weakly affected pollinator visitation, but when applied close to bloom reduced pollen germination and pollen tube growth. Ultimately, neither soil moisture nor insecticide use directly affected seed set, but the high correlation between pollinator visitation and seed set suggests that crop management will ultimately affect yields via indirect effects on the pollination process.
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