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Veronica Hederström. Photo.

Veronica Hederström


Veronica Hederström. Photo.

Do plant ploidy and pollinator tongue length interact to cause low seed yield in red clover?


  • Veronica Hederström
  • Maj Rundlöf
  • Göran Birgersson
  • Mattias C. Larsson
  • Anna Balkenius
  • Åsa Lankinen

Summary, in English

The loss of long-tongued pollinator species and dominance of a few short-tongued generalist species, related to agricultural intensification in recent decades, may have consequences for the quality, quantity, and stability of yields in insect-pollinated crops. Interestingly, the changes in pollinator community coincide with an increase in poor and variable seed yield in red clover, an important crop for green manure and forage production. However, to date we lack a holistic understanding of the factors that drive seed yield in red clover crops. To remedy this, we related plant and pollinator traits to pollinator visitation, behavior, and pollination efficiency in four diploid and five tetraploid red clover cultivars during three years in a common garden setting. Tetraploid cultivars produced 52% fewer seeds and 41% lower seed weight per flower head compared with diploid cultivars. They also had fewer flower heads per plant, larger florets, and lower pollen viability than diploids. Pollinator species with shorter tongues visited diploid cultivars more frequently than tetraploid cultivars. Pollinator species with longer tongues deposited more pollen and showed higher pollination efficiency in terms of seeds produced after single visits. Our results suggest that while both diploid and tetraploid red clover cultivars benefit from the presence of longer-tongued pollinator species, seed yield in tetraploid cultivars may be more sensitive to the loss of these bumble bee species in intensively cultivated agricultural landscapes.


  • Centre for Environmental and Climate Science (CEC)
  • BECC: Biodiversity and Ecosystem services in a Changing Climate
  • Biodiversity and Conservation Science
  • Biodiversity
  • Functional zoology
  • Lund Vision Group

Publishing year










Document type

Journal article


Ecological Society of America


  • Ecology
  • Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use


  • ploidy
  • pollinator efficiency
  • pollinator preference
  • pollinator tongue length
  • Trifolium pratense



Research group

  • Biodiversity and Conservation Science
  • Lund Vision Group


  • ISSN: 2150-8925