Organic Farmers Protect Pollinators

A staggering 75% of food crops rely on pollinators for production− from oil seeds and nuts, to fruits, vegetables, and legumes. Honey bees alone are responsible for pollinating approximately $12.4 billion in crops annually. A new study found wild bees to be roughly equivalent in economic value to domesticated colonies.

And bee populations, wild and domestic, as well as populations of other insect pollinators are in decline. Unsurprisingly, exposure to toxic chemicals, like widespread pesticide-use in conventional agriculture, has been implicated as a major source of bee die-off.  Neonicotinoids− the most widely used group of insecticides worldwide− are particularly insidious because, as a broad-spectrum insecticide, they are toxic to any insect, beneficial or otherwise, that comes in contact.

Organic production helps support both wild and domesticated pollinator populations in the following important ways.

1. Organic farming reduces pesticide exposure. Organic farmers are prohibited from using of harmful synthetic pesticides and toxic seed treatments endemic to conventional agriculture.  In organic systems, diverse farm ecosystems are fostered, resulting in higher populations of beneficial predatory insects. The end result: reduced pesticide application overall. And when pesticides are used by organic farmers, the over-all impact is less harmful as approved pesticides are not synthetic.

2. Organic farms promote biodiversity. The average organic farm is anything but a monoculture.  Organic practices, like planting hedgerows and cover crops, offer habitat and more nutritious feed to foraging insects. In organic systems, plants often flower at different times of the year− providing nectar and pollen sources throughout the growing season.

3. Native plants grow on organic farms. Organic farms also tend to host more native wild plants− like wildflowers and flowering shrubs. These native plants attract more wild pollinators and can serve as larval hosts for certain species.

 

For  regional sources of certified organic seed, check out OSGATA’s member list. Learn more about OSGATA membership and how to support organic farmers.

 

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