This is a summary of the recently published paper by Catarino et al: Bee pollination outperforms pesticides for oilseed
crop production and profitability(1).
The aim of this study was to try to establish the interactions between insect pollination and agricultural inputs (meaning agrochemical inputs) on crop yields and farm economics. To do this, the researchers model the effect of pollinators on OSR yields and farmers’ economic returns.
basic findings are that oil seed rape (OSR) crop yields and gross financial
margins are higher (15% - 40%) in fields with higher pollinator abundance than
in fields with lower pollinator abundance, but that this effect is greatly
reduced by pesticide use.
The researchers suggest that greater yields can be generated either by increasing fungicide agrochemical use or by increasing pollinator numbers, but their results do not show that increasing insecticide agrochemical usage generates increased yields.
However, whereas pollinators boost crop yield, increasing agrochemical usage as a means to increase yield actually reduces gross margin because the additional cost of agrochemical use is not covered by increased yields.
The researchers looked at oil seed rape (OSR) crops in 294 farmers’ fields in a research site covering 750 km2 over a 5 year period, and examined:
research has shown that farmers waste their money (quite apart from the environmental
effects) by using insecticide unnecessarily – sometimes prophylactically
(preventative rather than as treatment).
A study by ADAS showed that farmers were treating for pollen beetle
even when treatment was not necessary (read about it here).
ADAS note that crops can recover from less severe attacks from pollen beetle on their own, and that treatment is only necessary when a pollen beetle threshold is above a certain level. I suggest farmers might benefit from being given non-biased information, whilst familiarising themselves with these thresholds. Increasingly, I’m glad to say that I do read about farmers rejecting chemicals.
1. Catarino R, Bretagnolle V, Perrot T, Vialloux F, Gaba S. 2019 Bee pollination outperforms pesticides for oilseed
crop production and profitability. Proc. R. Soc.B 286:20191550.
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