Most of the world's crops depend on pollinators. Thus, the decline in their populations, including those of wild and honey bees, is raising concerns about food security, as evidenced by research carried out by the University of Rutgers, New Jersey. Researchers analyzed seven crops at 131 locations in major US crop-producing areas and concluded that 5 of the 7 crops showed evidence of a pollinator limitation.
"We found that many crops have limited pollination. This means that crop production would be higher if the flowers of the crops received more pollination. We also found that honey bees and wild bees provided similar amounts of pollination overall," stated Rachael Winfree, the paper's lead author and a professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources at Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. "Managing the habitat of native bee species or storing more honey bees would increase pollination levels and could increase crop production."
Pollination by wild and managed insects is critical for most crops, including those that provide essential micronutrients, and it is essential for food security, the study notes. In the United States, the production of crops that depend on pollinators generates more than 50 billion dollars a year. However, evidence shows that European honey bees (Apis mellifera) and some species of native wild bees are in decline.
Lower yields in apple, cherry, and blueberry crops
Scientists collected data on insect pollination of crop flowers and the yield of apples, tall blueberries, sweet cherries, tart cherries, almonds, watermelon, and pumpkin crops on 131 farms in the United States and in Canada's British Columbia. Apples, sweet cherries, tart cherries, and blueberries showed evidence of being limited by pollination, indicating that yields are currently lower than they would be with a full level of pollination.
The annual production value attributed to wild pollinators for the seven crops in the US is estimated at more than $ 1.5 billion.
"Our findings show that decreased pollinators could directly translate into decreased yields for most of the crops studied," the study states. The findings suggest that adopting practices that conserve or enhance wild bees, such as enhancing wildflowers and using managed pollinators other than honey bees, are likely to increase yields. Another alternative is increasing investment in honey bee colonies.
The study has been published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences journal.
Source: mundoagropecuario.com / blueberriesconsulting.com