US crop yields threatened by decline in pollinators

4 August 2020 | Muriel Cozier

A decline in bee populations raises fresh concerns about food security.

A lack of pollinators is leading to a fall off in yields of apples, cherries and blueberries across the US, according to research led by Rutgers University, New Brunswick, US.

Said to be the most comprehensive study of its kind to date, the researchers said that their findings indicated that pollinator declines could translate directly into decreased yields for most of the crops studied.

‘We found that many crops are pollination-limited, meaning 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,’ said senior author of study Rachael Winfree, a professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University.

Publishing their findings in the journal; Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences the researchers note that with most of the world’s crops depending on honeybees and wild bees for pollination, declines in both bee populations raises concerns about food security.

In the US, the production of crops dependent on pollinators is worth in excess of $50 billion each year. According to recent evidence, European honeybees and some native wild bee species are also in decline.

The Rutgers University conclusions were based on data collected from 131 farms across the US and in British Columbia, Canada. Scientists collected data on insect pollination of crop flowers and yield for various crops including apples, high bush blueberries, sweet cherries, almond and pumpkin. It was noted that apples, sweet cherries and blue berries showed evidence of being limited by pollination, indicating that yields are currently lower than they would be with full pollination.


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