Jan 21, 2016
Study: small farms benefit from high pollinator density

A white-tailed bumblebee pollinating a sunflower. Photo: Arnstein Staverløkk.

Higher numbers of pollinators can significantly increase crop productivity of small-sized farms, according to a paper in the latest issue of Science. The study found large farms can experience increased yields if they have both a high number of pollinators and diversity.

Lucas Garibaldi, author of the paper, along with a team of researchers, analyzed 344 fields of small and large holdings in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Here’s more from the paper published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science:

For small holdings less than two hectares, their analysis found that yield gaps — the difference between crops that yielded the most produce compared to those that yielded the least — could be closed by 24% through higher pollinator density; the authors note that the remaining 76% of the yield gap may be partially closed by technologies that optimize other agricultural factors, such as nutrients and water.

In contrast, for larger holdings, a similar yield benefit from pollinator density only occurred if accompanied by high pollinator diversity. The authors suggest that large crops may benefit less from pollinator density because these are more likely to be pollinated by flower visitors with longer foraging ranges, which are usually generalist species, such as honeybees.

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