Cooperative Extension: The Vital Link – Pollinators and Food Production

It is important to think about pollinators, especially during spring while plants are blooming.

Pollinators play a crucial role in food security by enabling the production of many of the crops we rely on food.

Many of these crops depend on pollinators for successful fruit production, and without them, crop yields would be significantly reduced. In fact, about 75 percent of the world’s food crops depend on pollination to some extent. Pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, and other insects are responsible for most of this pollination, providing the bulk of the pollination for over 80 percent of the world’s flowering plants. Pollination occurs when pollen is transferred from one flower to another of the same species, leading to fertilization and the production of seeds or fruits.

Some of the most important crops that depend on pollinators Are fruits such as apples, blueberries, cherries, almonds, and watermelons, as well as vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers. Many of these crops are important sources of vitamins and other nutrients that are essential for human health.

Pollinators can be birds, bats, or even small mammals but, insects such as ants, bees, beetles, wasps, butterflies, and moths do the bulk of the pollination that affects our daily lives. However,

pollinators are facing numerous threats, including habitat loss, pesticide use, climate change, and disease. As a result, populations of many pollinator species have declined, leading to concerns about the long-term sustainability of crop production.

We can care for our pollinators by planting pollinator-friendly flowers that produces pollen and nectar in abundance, such as black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), blanket flower (Gaillardia pulchella), coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) etc. It is also important to choose plants with flat or short to medium-length flower tubes where plant resources are easily accessible for bees.

Growing native wildflowers can benefit both agricultural producers and pollinators by providing nesting and foraging sites for bees, increasing natural enemies of pest insects, and creating an aesthetically pleasing ecosystem. When restoring habitats for pollinators, it is important to select mix varieties of native wildflowers that will flower all year round. Notably these plants will adapt better to regional growing conditions and the climate. It is also important to avoid using pesticides and minimize soil disturbance in these areas to provide shelter for solitary bees that nest in the ground.

Finally, spreading awareness about the importance of pollinators and their role in our food systems is key to their protection. By taking steps to support pollinators, we can help ensure that they continue to thrive and play their vital role in our world.

For more information please contact the Gadsden County Extension Office at 850-875-7255 or stop by the office on Highway 90 at 2140 W. Jefferson Street, Quincy, Fla. You can also stay up to date by following us on Facebook at UF/IFAS Extension Gadsden County!

Donna Arnold is the small farms & residential horticulture agent for UF/IFAS Extension Gadsden County. 


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