Pol­li­na­tors pro­filed

Irish Examiner - Farming - - COVER STORY -

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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