Friday, March 01, 2013

Agriculture: Protect Wild Insects to Promote Pollination

BY: Dr.Y.Bala Murali Krishna

New Delhi, Mar 1(2013) Farmers Beware! Protect and Preserve the wild insects such as bees, flies, butterflies and beetles that promote crop pollination and thus result in higher farm yields.

Mere bee keeping is not enough. Integrated pest management is the key to enhance global yields of animal-pollinated crops and promote long-term agriculture production.

 “These practices should include conservation/restoration of natural or semi-natural areas within croplands, promotion of a variety of land use, addition of diverse floral and nesting resources, and more prudent use of insecticides that can kill pollinators,” a new global study says.

Appalled over the rapidly declining wild insect species world over due to unscientific farm practices, the researchers studied data from 600 fields in 20 countries. They found that farm management with mere honey bees was not enough but successful farming includes protection of wild insects that promote crop pollination.

Flowers of most crops need to receive pollen before making seeds and fruits, a process that is enhanced by insects that visit flowers.

These pollinators, including bees, flies, butterflies and beetles, usually live in natural or semi-natural habitats, such as the edges of forests, hedgerows or grasslands.

As these habitats are lost, primarily owing to conversion to agriculture, the abundance and diversity of pollinators decline and crops receive fewer visits from wild insects.

The study found that the proportion of flowers producing fruits was considerably lower in sites with fewer wild insects visiting crop flowers.

 Therefore, the reduction of wild insects in agricultural landscapes will likely impact both our natural heritage and agricultural harvest.

The study, which prompts an urgent call to maintain and manage pollinator diversity for long-term agricultural production, is published today in the journal Science.

The 50 international researchers, including Lawrence Harder(see Pic), professor in the Department of Biological Sciences in the Faculty of Science at the University of Calgary(Canada), analysed data from 41 crop systems around the world including fruits, seeds, nuts, and coffee to examine the consequences of having abundant wild pollinators for crop pollination.

"Our study demonstrates that production of many fruit and seed crops that make diets interesting, such as tomatoes, coffee and watermelon, is limited because their flowers are not adequately pollinated. Adding more honey bees often does not fix this problem, but that increased service by wild insects," says Harder.

Paradoxically, most common approaches to increase agricultural efficiency, such as cultivation of all available land and the use of pesticides, reduce the abundance and variety of wild insects that could increase production of these crops.//EOM//


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