Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 10°C

min temp: 4°C

ESTD 1874 Search

East Anglia: Devising a strategy for our crucial pollinators

06:00 13 April 2014

Plants providing sources of pollen and nectar for pollinators, courtesy of the Campaign for the Farmed Environment.

Plants providing sources of pollen and nectar for pollinators, courtesy of the Campaign for the Farmed Environment.

Archant

Fears over food security loom large with an ever-expanding global population demanding more from farmers year on year, writes CLA east rural adviser Maisi Jepson.

shares
Maisie Jepson – CLA East Rural AdviserMaisie Jepson – CLA East Rural Adviser

With pressure mounting on growers to produce more on the same land using less resources, attention has turned to the crucial and often underappreciated role pollinators play in helping produce enough food for the world.

Pollinators include all species that visit flowers, such as bees, wasps and butterflies, and move pollen between them. This ensures fertilisation and the production of seeds and fruits.

Insect pollination is responsible for an estimated 35% of world crop production. In the UK, insect pollination contributes approximately £400million a year to the nation’s economy.

However, it has been well documented in recent years that pollinators have been on the decline. This worrying trend has been attributed to higher intensity land-use such as farming, but it is important to note the effects of housing developments and road building. Given that these changes are generally considered to be in the public interest, we all need to realise our part in their declines, and help to counteract them.

The launch of the Government consultation on 6 March followed a roundtable discussion between the CLA and Defra Minister Lord de Mauley to discuss the Association’s thoughts on the subject earlier in the year. Its aims include raising public awareness and providing an overview of where current gaps in knowledge are, and how these can be rectified.

There is a need to better understand trends in pollinator populations and behaviours, such as how they interact with other species and their impact upon crop production. One of the first things to research is the effect of neonicotinoids and other pesticides on pollinators. Policy-makers must ensure decisions are scientific and evidence based, and that by banning one product they aren’t favouring something worse. We have seen many examples where products have been banned or removed by the European Commission as a result of insufficient or no field data, leaving growers with little option but to use alternative products.

Ultimately, the vision is to see pollinators thrive and continue to provide benefits for food security, and the wider environment. To this end, the Strategy also looks to build partnerships, raise public awareness, improve understanding, and think globally.

When the public thinks of pollinators, there’s a tendency to focus on domesticated honey bees. They do pollinate and provide us with honey, so we should do as much as we can to protect them – but our entire focus should not just be on them. Researchers at the University of Northampton suggest that as honey bees aren’t native to the UK and haven’t evolved alongside our native flora they could harm biodiversity through competition and pollinating invasive plant species. As the recent declines in honey bee populations haven’t been shown to affect crop yields, it seems likely that native pollinators are playing a far more substantial role than previously thought.

So, we need to help native pollinators: this means providing pollen and nectar sources for as much of the year as possible (predominantly March to October). Farmers have been doing this through environmental stewardships schemes and the Campaign for the Farmed Environment, but these practices could also be extended to golf courses, roadsides and private gardens. The Royal Horticultural Society has produced lists of plants that are beneficial to insect pollinators (found on their website). These have been separated into months so gardeners can ensure a full season’s complement of nectar and pollen sources.

Flower-rich grasslands are the most important habitat for many of our rare bumblebees. Usually these include clovers, vetches and trefoils, which are an important source of pollen to feed to their young.

By addressing plant biodiversity, insect pollinators will benefit along with crop and wild fruit yields, which will consequently help the birds and other fauna. Strengthening food webs in this way will help to make animal communities more resilient to environmental change.

Consideration of pollinators should become second nature in all of us and providing for them ought to become as common as feeding the birds.

The consultation closes on 2 May; all documents and the response survey can be found here: https://consult.defra.gov.uk/plant-and-bee-health-policy/a-consultation-on-the-national-pollinator-strategy.

shares

0 comments

Stock image of police road closed sign.

A Suffolk woman has died during car crash which left a man and a baby in hospital.

Pupils and Students outside Bealings Primary School where they are planning to boycott classes next Tuesday as a protest against SATS.

A group of parents from Suffolk are planning to take their children out of school for the day in a show of protest against SATs exams.

Familie Floz will be among the diverse dance line-up for Latitude.

A feast of international dance – along with extra names from the music and theatre world – has today been announced for this summer’s Latitude Festival.

Three arrests in rogue trader inquiry

Three suspected doorstep conmen have been arrested in Ipswich after residents at two addresses reported rogue traders calling on them.

Jill Reece with her petition againt the closure of the barrow crossing at Halesworth Station.

Campaigners are hoping to reach a “sensible and safe solution” to keep a foot crossing open at a north Suffolk rail station.

UK farmers have seen their profits squeezed by a number of factors.

The total income from UK farming fell by a “staggering” 29% in 2015, with a loss of more than £1.5billion, according to figures released by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) yesterday.

Nearly 14,000 people flocked to the Felixstowe Spa Pavilion during the first three months of its re-opening. Photo: Su Anderson

The new owners of Felixstowe’s Spa Pavilion are celebrating after it was revealed thousands have flocked to see shows at the recently re-opened venue.

Most read

Great Days Out

cover

Click here to view
the Great Days Out
supplement

View

Most commented

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Streetlife

Newsletter Sign Up

Great British Life

Great British Life
MyDate24 MyPhotos24