Crop pollination is essential for maintaining productivity. Insects are required for pollination in more than 75% of the world’s crops. As an ecosystem service, this has an estimated value of £440M, per annum for the UK, £200M of which represents the UK fruit industry and £102M p.a. for the apple industry alone; although recent research has shown that this may be underestimated by at least 16%.
Declines in numbers of insect pollinators across honey bees and wild bees including solitary bees, bumblebees, butterflies and hoverflies have been reported for several years, although the factors relating to decline have been many and varied. Factors include, climate change, agricultural intensification, including losses of forage and potentially nesting sites, unpredictable weather patterns and pesticide use changes.
This, coupled with a change in crop practices to gain higher yields from smaller areas of land, could have implications for food security in the UK at a time when increasingly intensive horticultural production methods are being applied, with fewer long lasting wild flowers and more fruit blossoms per hectare of land that require pollination.
Considering insect pollinators key role in supporting food security and nutrition in an increasing world population and a changing climate, EMR has recently focused on some of the key issues in fruit crops.
In order to build resilience in our key crop pollinators it is essential that we first identify the key crop blossom insect forager visitors and the habitat they need to sustain populations from year to year.
Recent research has targeted the identification of key crop flower insect foragers for apple, pear and blackcurrant, the effect of insect pollination on fruit quality, differences between crops and the effect of supplementing the natural population of pollinators with managed bees.
At EMR the focus of insect pollinator research is based on gains for both the growers and the native wild bees that pollinate their crops.
For more information, contact Dr Michelle Fountain