Farmers being asked to share views on crop pollination as part of a Europe wide research project
Dr Lorna Cole, Agricultural Ecologist with Scotland’s Rural College, one of the partners in the research network, says that only through working with farmers and beekeepers can the industry hope to arrest the global decline of pollinators and protect the pollination services they provide. It is for this reason Super-B is asking farmers to fill in their pollinator survey which can be found at SRUC’s website.
Lorna says: “We need to understand what #bees need in terms of both farmed crops and wild plants to ensure we can support their populations, but it is also vital we understand what measures farmers can practically take to encourage pollinators on their land. Only then can we can make a real difference to this problem. There are many things farmers can do to encourage pollinating insects, and they will be rewarded for their efforts by increased yields of insect pollinated l crops including fruits, beans and oilseed rape.”
The key to increasing pollinator numbers is simply to provide a wider range of flowering plants which supply nectar and pollen throughout the season. SRUC research has found that hedgerows are no longer a rich source of woody flowering plants; however, the addition of blackthorn and dog rose could make them once more a haven for bees.
It is well known that wild flower meadows are beneficial to pollinator species but farmers can also create wild strips of land next to rivers and streams (known as riparian buffer strips). They need to do little here but let nature take over, pollinators will follow.
It is to help farmers make these changes that SRUC are asking them to fill in a short survey where they will be asked about a range of pollination issues including whether they think there is any decrease in yield due to lack of insect pollinators, whether they buy in insects to help #pollinate their fields and what measures they take to encourage pollinators on their farms.
The Super-B network is warning that in the face of insect pollinator declines, the industry cannot rely on honeybees for pollination. This is particularly significant in Europe where honeybees are typically kept for honey production rather than for pollinating crops (a practice relatively common in the United States).
Lorna says: “While a wide range of wild insects have the potential to pollinate crops, including solitary bees, bumblebees and hoverflies, farmers and growers often rely on honeybees. Reliance on a single species is risky especially since honeybees are vulnerable to pests and diseases.”