In conventional farming, most attention goes to matters such as quality of the planting material, soil quality, fertilisation, and weed control.
But research in the Netherlands by Thijs Fijen of Wageningen University & Research (et al) has shows much can be gained, even in conventional farming, by focusing more on promoting wild pollinators. In a joint project with seed producer BASF Vegetable Seeds, the researchers looked at leek seed production on 36 fields in France and Italy.
“Our research shows that wild pollinators are at least as important for crop yield as the vitality of the plants,” says Mr Fijen. “This was also a surprising finding for us. It is very odd that the agricultural sector has paid so little attention to protecting wild pollinators.”
In this study, bumblebees and other wild bees were found to be the most important pollinators. Fijen said: “Bumblebees are incredibly important pollinators for many crops, probably because their large, hairy bodies can carry a lot of pollen.
“For most crops, the contribution of wild pollinators may be somewhat less than shown in our study on leeks, but I still believe that the importance of wild pollinators, and thus biodiversity, is systematically underestimated by the agricultural sector.”
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