Urgent Planting of Flowers Will Save Bees and Enrich Farmers

The collapse of bee populations can be reversed new studies show, with gains in biodiversity and income for farmers too. The reversal can happen by simply changing the world’s monocrops to a quarter flowering crops such as wildflowers, spices, oil seeds, medicinal and forage plants.

In all climatic regions that were studied, total income of farmers increased, with the most significant benefits being on degraded lands and farms without honeybees. The most significant gains were in semi-arid regions, with pumpkin yields rising 561%, broad beans 177% and melons 56%. In non-arid regions, tomato harvests doubled and eggplant went up 250%. In mountain fields, zucchini production tripled and pumpkin production doubled.

It is increasingly evident that things need to change. More than 80% of food crops require pollination, but the populations of insects that do most of this work have collapsed. The risk of famine as the result of our over reliance on monocrops has become a very real concern to scientists.

Researchers spent five years working on an approach called “farming with alternative pollinators.” The technique is to devote one in four crop rows to flowering crops. Additionally the technique suggests providing pollinators with nesting support, like old wood and soil that ground nesting bees can use, with sunflowers planted nearby as wind shelters.

There is a very low barrier to put these techniques into action, even the poorest country can do this. There is no equipment, no technology, only a small investment in seeds.

Compared with fields of pure monocultures, incredible increases were found in the number and diversity of pollinators. The test fields were pollinated more efficiently, with fewer pests and increased years.



Photo: “Wild Honey Bees” by Bob Peterson is licensed under CC BY 2.0