Decline in bees, other pollinators threaten US crop yields.

Decline in bees, other pollinators threaten US crop yields.

A bumble bee pollinating a blueberry bush. Credit: Winfree Lab

Production of apple, cherry, and blueberry crops in the United States is shrinking due to a lack of pollinators, according to research led by Rutgers, the most comprehensive study of its kind to date.

Most of the world’s crops rely on honey bees and wild bees for pollination, so declining populations of both managed and wild bees raise concerns about food security, the study noted in the journal. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

“We found that many crops are limited by pollination, which means that crop production would be higher if crop flowers received more pollination. We also found that honey bees and wild bees provided similar amounts of pollination overall,” he said. Lead author Rachael Winfree, Professor, Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources, Rutgers-New Brunswick University School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. “Managing habitat for native bee species and / or storing more honey bees would increase pollination levels and could increase crop production.”

Pollination by wild and managed insects is critical to most crops, including those that provide essential micronutrients, and 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 a year. According to recent evidence, European honey bees (Apis mellifera) and some species of native wild bees are in decline.

At 131 farms in the United States and British Columbia, Canada, scientists collected data on insect pollination from crop flowers and the performance of apples, blueberries, cherries, cherries, almonds, watermelons, and squash. Of these, 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 full pollination. Wild bees and honey bees provided similar amounts of pollination for most crops.

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

“Our results show that decreased pollinators could directly translate into decreased yields for most of the crops studied,” says the study. The findings suggest that adopting practices that conserve or enhance wild bees, such as breeding wildflowers and using managed pollinators other than honey bees, are likely to increase yield. Increasing investment in honey bee colonies is another alternative.

James Reilly, a research associate in Winfree’s lab, led the study, which used data collected by researchers from many universities and was part of the Integrated Crop Pollination Project funded by the USDA-NIFA Specialty Crop Research Initiative.

Agroforestry is ‘win win’ for bees and crops, study shows

More information:
Crop production in the US 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: Decline in bees, other pollinators threatens U.S. crop yields (2020, July 28) retrieved on July 29, 2020 from -bees-pollinators-threatens-crop.html

This document is subject to copyright. Other than fair dealing for private research or study purposes, no part may be reproduced without written permission. The content is provided for informational purposes only.