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Home / Science / The decline of bees and other pollinators threatens the harvest of American crops

The decline of bees and other pollinators threatens the harvest of American crops



The decline of bees and other pollinators threatens the harvest of American crops

Bumblebee pollinating a blueberry bush. Credit: Winfree Lab

Yields on apples, cherries and blueberries in the United States are declining due to a shortage of pollinators, according to research led by Rutgers, the most complete study of its kind to date.

Most of the world̵

7;s crops depend on honey and wild bee pollination, so declining both controlled and wild bee populations are a cause for food security concerns, according to the journal. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological sciences.

“We found that many crops are limited by pollination. This means that crop production would be higher if crop flowers received more pollination. We also found that honey and wild bees provide the same amount of pollination in general,” said the senior author. Rachel Winfrey, Professor of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, Rutgers University, New Brunswick. “Habitat management for local bee species and / or storage of more honey bees would increase pollination and may increase crop production.”

Pollination by wild and controlled insects is critical for most crops, including those that provide essential micronutrients, and is important for food security, the study said. In the United States, pollen-dependent crops generate more than $ 50 billion a year. According to the latest data, European honey bees (Apis mellifera) and some local wild bee species are declining.

At 131 farms in the United States and British Columbia, Canada, researchers collected data on insect pollination of crop flowers and yields of apples, tall blueberries, cherries, tart cherries, almonds, watermelons and pumpkins. Of these, apples, cherries, tart cherries and blueberries showed limited pollination, indicating that yields are currently lower than with full pollination. Wild bees and honey bees provided the same amount of pollination for most crops.

The annual production cost of wild pollinators for all seven crops was approximately $ 1.5 billion in the United States. The value of wild bee pollination for all pollinator-dependent crops would be much higher.

“Our results show that reduced pollination can directly reduce the yield of most of the studied crops,” the study said. The results suggest that the use of the practice of conserving or increasing wild bees, such as increasing wildflowers and using controlled pollinators other than honey bees, may increase yields. Increasing investment in honey bee colonies is another alternative.

James Reilly, a researcher at the Winfrey Laboratory, led a study that used data collected by researchers at many universities and was part of the Integrated Crop Pollution project, funded by the USDA-NIFA Special Research Initiative.


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More information:
Crop production in the United States is often limited by a lack of pollinators, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, rspb.royalsocietypublishing.or… .1098 / rspb.2020.0922

Provided by Rutgers University



Citation: Protection of bees and other pollinators threatens the harvest of American crops (2020, July 28), obtained July 29, 2020 from https://phys.org/news/2020-07-decline-bees-pollinators-threatens-crop.html

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