Bee pollination improves crop quality, shelf life and commercial value: Study on market value compared with wind and self-pollination – Royal Society

‘Pollination crisis’ hitting India’s vegetable farmers

A decline in pollinating insects in India is resulting in reduced vegetable yields and could limit people’s access to a nutritional diet, a study warns. […]Despite the concern, no study had been done to assess directly the scale of the decline in natural pollinators, explained Parthiba Basu, from the University of Calcutta’s Ecology Research Unit. […]He explained that certain crops did not depend on insects for pollination, including cereals. Instead, the plants used other mechanism – such as relying on the wind to carry the pollen.However, many vegetables – such as pumpkin, squash, cucumber and gherkin – were reliant on insects, such as bees. […]Dr Basu said: “There is an obvious indication that within the ecological farming setting, there is pollinator abundance. This method typically provides the habitats for natural pollinators – this is the way forward.”He added that if the team’s findings were extrapolated, this would offer a “clear indication” that India was facing a decline in natural pollinators, as ecological farming was only practiced on about 10-20% of the country’s arable land. […]Troubling timesThe UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that of the slightly more than 100 crop species that provide 90% of food supplies for 146 countries, 71 are bee-pollinated, primarily by wild bees, and a number of others are pollinated by other insects. […]In industrialised nations, such as the US and in Europe, many farms employ the services of commercial hives to pollinate fruit trees and food crops, and ensure they harvest adequate yields.But Dr Basu said the use of domesticated bees in this context was not widespread in South Asia.

“There are honey farmers, but using hives in the field to pollinate crops is not at all common in India,” he said. […]

A number of possible causes have been suggested, including the misuse of pesticides, habitat loss and fragmentation, and the spread of parasites and diseases.  […]

Source: BBC News – ‘Pollination crisis’ hitting India’s vegetable farmers
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Bee pollination improves crop quality, shelf life and commercial value

Pollination improves the yield of most crop species and contributes to one-third of global crop production, but comprehensive benefits including crop quality are still unknown. Hence, pollination is underestimated by international policies, which is particularly alarming in times of agricultural intensification and diminishing pollination services. In this study, exclusion experiments with strawberries showed bee pollination to improve fruit quality, quantity and market value compared with wind and self-pollination. Bee-pollinated fruits were heavier, had less malformations and reached higher commercial grades. They had increased redness and reduced sugar–acid–ratios and were firmer, thus improving the commercially important shelf life. Longer shelf life reduced fruit loss by at least 11%. This is accounting for 0.32 billion US$ of the 1.44 billion US$ provided by bee pollination to the total value of 2.90 billion US$ made with strawberry selling in the European Union 2009. The fruit quality and yield effects are driven by the pollination-mediated production of hormonal growth regulators, which occur in several pollination-dependent crops. Thus, our comprehensive findings should be transferable to a wide range of crops and demonstrate bee pollination to be a hitherto underestimated but vital and economically important determinant of fruit quality.

Received September 17, 2013.
Accepted November 7, 2013.

© 2013 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.

Source: Bee pollination improves crop quality, shelf life and commercial value
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