The information below is an excerpt from a recent article published in the Columbia Daily Tribune. The article stresses the important role of pollinators and the need to take action to guarantee their survival, including the reduction of pesticide use. The Lawn Company “Better Lawns Naturally” provides pesticide-free lawn care services, which are environmentally-friendly and pollinator-friendly.
Though small, pollinators play a big role in our lives. They make our world more beautiful — most flowering plant species rely on pollinators to reproduce. Pollinators also are responsible for keeping us fed. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reports more than 75 percent of the world’s food crops rely on pollination by insects and other animals.
Without pollinators, there would be no coffee, chocolate, tomatoes or apples. There also would be no milk, cheese or ice cream — dairy cows eat alfalfa, which is pollinated by leafcutter and honey bees. Even spring break would take a hit. The agave plant, which is used to make tequila, is pollinated by bats.
As part of pollinator week activities at the Mizzou Botanic Garden, agricultural ecologist and writer Gary Nabhan from the University of Arizona will speak during a June 19 dinner about preventing food-chain collapse and investing in pollinator habitats. Nabhan recently spoke with MU spokesperson, Caroline Dohack, about the importance of bees, butterflies, birds and other pollinators.
Caroline Dohack: What role do pollinators play in our food production?
Gary Nabhan: One in every three bites we eat of a typical American meal comes from food crops that require insects and other pollinators. Pollinators should be thought of as allies or collaborators of America’s farm labor force that brings us our daily bread. Pollination ecologists have found that on average, wild bees contribute more than $8,000 an acre to crop production … Of some 1,400 crop plants cultivated for food and fiber around the planet, four out of five require pollination by animals. In the United States, the pollination services of food and fiber crops offered by bees and other insects is valued at $10 billion annually. Globally, pollination services are valued at more than $3 trillion.
Dohack: What factors have contributed to declining pollinator populations?
Nabhan: For decades, the fragmentation of diverse habitats around our farms and gardens has contributed to pollinator declines. But for the last 50 years, the “chemical fragmentation” of these habitats has particularly taken its toll, as herbicides decimate nectar sources and larval hosts plants while insecticides directly kill or disrupt the behaviors of the pollinators themselves. In addition, the effects of climate change through drought, heat waves and catastrophic weather events have also diminished the availability of food and shelter for pollinators. The introduction of exotic diseases and pests like varroa mites have also impaired pollinator health.
To read the above-referenced article in its entirety, please go to the Columbia Daily Tribune website.