Sustainable Pollination Services for UK Crops




Pollinators and agriculture

As well as being essential to the functioning of wild ecosystems, insect pollinators contribute to the pollination of 84% of European crop species (Williams, 1994) and are responsible for an estimated 35% of world food production (Klien et al., 2007). The benefit of insect pollination varies between crops but as well as increasing fruit and seed production; insect pollinators can improve quality, speed up ripening and even improve taste. Crops that benefit from insect pollinators in the UK include oilseed rape, strawberries, apples, beans, tomatoes and many more. We would not see the variety of fruit and vegetables we enjoy in supermarkets today without insect pollination.

To highlight the importance of insect pollination as an ecosystem service to agriculture, it has been valued at €153 billion globally (Gallai et al., 2009) and it is estimated to be worth over £430 million in the UK alone (Breeze et al., 2011). Our reliance on insect pollinators and the service they provide is set to rise in the coming years with an increasing human population and changing diets. In the UK for example, the cultivated area of insect dependent crops has increased by 38% in the last 20 years (Breeze et al., 2011).

Clearly we are absolutely reliant on insect pollinators to enjoy the variety of foods available to us today but they have a more fundamental role in terms of food security, nutrition and feeding an increasing human population. It is essential therefore, for us to understand which insects are pollinating our crops and how pollination services may be affected in the future.

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