02 February 2015 | Online since 2003



Organic farming can help save bees


New evidence is already showing that the loss of bees and other pollinators is affecting farmers.

New studies suggest that crops like field bean, apple and strawberry in the UK may already suffering from insufficient pollination. But strawberries have been found to have higher pollination success on organic, compared to conventional farms, and this benefit can appear as quickly as 2 to 4 years after a farm converts to organic. A new study has also found that field beans on organic farms have greater pollination success compared to conventional farms.

It is clear that the temporary suspension by the European Union of three neonicotinoid insecticides will not be enough to halt still less reverse the massive decline in wild pollinators, nor remove the risk to honey bees. Recent scientific evidence from the USA suggests pollinators are subject to a wide variety of insecticides and fungicides present in pollen, which could threaten their survival, and the same is thought to be true in Europe.

Other changes, including the provision of more wild flowers and fundamental changes in farming systems significantly to reduce all pesticide use will be needed to restore pollinator populations.

However, the Proposed Strategy – consultation on which closes on Saturday 2 May 2014 – currently proposes no real change to farming systems, as all it advocates is more ‘Integrated Pest Management’ (IPM). There is no agreed definition of IPM, and it is variously claimed to encompass a huge range of management practices, from the current standard of most UK conventional farming at one end of the spectrum, to organic farming at the other.

Peter Melchett, Soil Association policy director said: “Our pollinators are vital and so we are is calling on Defra to make clear that their preferred European definition of IPM does also refer to organic farming, and to drop their claim that there is scientific evidence that IPM could help bees, when none in fact exists. Indeed, if most current UK farming is correctly classified as IPM, as the National Farmers’ Union and most supermarkets say, then the evidence shows that it is definitely not beneficial for pollinators, as these have either continued to decline, or at least not recovered, after many years of IPM farming in the UK.”

Researchers from Oxford University have found approximately 50% more different pollinator species on organic compared to non-organic farms in the latest scientific study, based on data from nearly 100 different studies. The most recent research looking at numbers of bees on organic compared to non-organic farms, a major global review of 39 different studies, found that there are on average 74% more wild bees on organic farms, and research has found higher butterfly numbers too.

For all wildlife, previous meta-analyses have consistently shown an average of around 30% more of all species and 50% higher numbers of wildlife on organic compared to non-organic farms. The biggest differences occur in wild plants (the start of the food chain on which other wildlife depends), because absolutely no weed-killers can be used in organic farming. Research shows organic farms have on average nearly 75% more plant species compared to comparable conventional farms. The next biggest differences are in numbers and variety of wild insects (which depend on plants), with significant but lower increases for diversity and numbers of wild birds and mammals.

Peter Melchett continued: “This research shows there is a clear solution for pollinators with a known outcome – support organic farming and we can have 50% more species of pollinators in our countryside.”

Apart from banning all weed killers, so protecting wild plants, organic standards dramatically restrict use of insecticides and fungicides that kill insects, including pollinators like honey bees and bumblebees. Organic farming may also provide more nesting sites for wild bees. The major difference is that organic farms have more flowers.

Download



Comments


09-05-2014 17:32 PM | Posted by: Liz
Thank you for this article. I live on a chemical free (beyond organic) ranch in the rainforest of Costa Rica. We have s bee project underway, focusing primarily on our local, stingless Mariola variety of bee. We are actively seeking qualified volunteers to pitch in to move this project forward, If you,m or anyone in your network has interest, please contact me.

To post comment without approval login or register

Display name

Please enter your name

Email (optional)
Comment

Please enter your comment

Post Comment

Your comment submitted successfully.Please wait for admin approval.

Some error on your process.Please try one more time.



Jobs


20 January 2015
Maintenance Engineer / Technician - Multi Skilled - London
Power station, MRF, Heavy Industry, Agriculture, Military, Army, tarmac, heavy industry, brickwork, cement, turbines, Ef....

17 January 2015
Machine Operator /Workshop Technician
Engineer – Engineering – Low Carbon – Manufacturing – Administrative – Administration - Admin - Purchase Ledger - Accounts - ...

23 January 2015
Forensic Social Worker - Full Time
The North London Forensic Service is based in the Medium Secure Unit at Chase Farm Hospital, Enfield and provides the Forensi...

21 January 2015
SME Dairy / Eggs
This includes all dairy & egg proteins including milk liquid and cultured dairy containing materials. How well do you kno...

22 January 2015
Shed Operative
Bird Welfare Water – ensure water is available to birds at all times and at the correct height and monitor consumption Feed –...




Top stories you may have missed
12 November 2014 | Arable
GM crops 'good for farmers and the envir...

GM crops 'good for farmers and the envir...

GM crops are good for the economy and can reduce the amount of pesticides u...


6 November 2014 | Cattle
Smaller European markets drive beef expo...

Smaller European markets drive beef expo...

Demand from smaller European markets has helped drive strong growth for UK ...


6 November 2014 | Agri Safety
Lack of engineers a 'ticking time bomb' ...

Lack of engineers a 'ticking time bomb' ...

A lack of engineers, not enough people promoting the land-based industries ...


4 November 2014 | Bees and Beekeeping
Bee action plan due: Last chance for bee...

Bee action plan due: Last chance for bee...

Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss is launching the National Pollinator ...


4 November 2014 | Arable
Experts welcome financial boost for youn...

Experts welcome financial boost for youn...

Agricultural specialists have welcomed a potential financial boost for youn...


3 November 2014 | News
Supermarket competition on prices 'risks...

Supermarket competition on prices 'risks...

As retailers continue to participate in a highly competitive race to the bo...


31 October 2014 | Arable
New Defra farm figures 'underline volati...

New Defra farm figures 'underline volati...

New farm business income data from Defra, which focus on income from March ...


30 October 2014 | Agri Safety
Agriculture remains one of UK's most dan...

Agriculture remains one of UK's most dan...

Agriculture has remained one of the industries in which workers are most li...


29 October 2014 | Finance
UK farmland prices see 'substantial grow...

UK farmland prices see 'substantial grow...

Prime arable land in the UK has seen a substantial year-on-year growth in p...


27 October 2014 | Arable
Satellites to help farmers pinpoint dise...

Satellites to help farmers pinpoint dise...

A new mobile app for farmers able to pinpoint and identify disease, pests a...