(Beyond Pesticides, February 23, 2012) A new study finds organic farming practices in strawberry production result in much greater pollination success than chemical-intensive methods. Researchers also determined that this effect was apparent within just two to four years of conversion to organic, suggesting that there is not a significant lag time before pollination benefits are seen after adopting organic farming practices. The study, led by Georg Andersson of Lund University in Sweden, adds to a growing body of research that highlights the necessity of switching to organic agriculture.
Pollination of insect pollinated crops is correlated with pollinator abundance and diversity. Since organic farming has the potential to mitigate negative effects of agricultural intensification on biodiversity, it may also benefit crop pollination, but direct evidence of this has so far been lacking. Researchers speculate that this effect may be due to an increase in insect pollinator abundance and/or diversity.
The researchers evaluated the effect of organic farming on pollination of strawberry plants focusing on whether (1) pollination success was higher on organic farms compared to conventional farms, and (2) there was a time lag from conversion to organic farming until an effect was manifested.
The results “suggest that organic farming could enhance the pollination service in agricultural landscapes, which is important for developing a sustainable agriculture. The method made it possible to measure the pollination independent of landscape composition, soil-type and other factors that can affect pollination success”, says Dr. Andersson.
Pollination success not only benefits the crops, but the entire ecosystem as well. According to researchers, butterfly and plant species richness has been found to increase rapidly after transition to organic farming. This suggests that pollinator richness may respond rapidly too.
Approximately 90 percent of all flowering plants require pollinators to survive. In agriculture, nearly a third of pollination is accomplished by honeybees. Threats to pollinators, especially commercial honey bees, concern the entire food system and economy. With one in three bites of food reliant on pollination, beekeepers and environmental organizations alike call out the wide-scale problem. The shift to organic practices is essential for our health and the environment.
For more information on pesticides, honey bees and other pollinators, including tips on what you can do, see Beyond Pesticides Protecting Pollinators program page.
Source: Eureka Alert Press Release
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.