Achieving optimum yields, food security and zero poverty: Are pollinators forgotten?

The drive to attain food security and increased yields have necessitated several interventions, strategies and practices by research institutions, government agencies, private sector actors and funding agencies, all in the name of achieving zero poverty. It seems that certain critical thinking and/or areas are still left untouched. Good agronomic practices, improved seeds, precision agriculture through digitization, private sector inclusion and enforcement of government policies are the key drivers to ensuring a food secure continent.

However, the role of pollinators is still underestimated and people seems to give a fence – sitting attitude towards this. Even with the little information available on pollinators, the key players (farmers) are unaware of the role of pollinators and sustainable means by which they can augment their numbers for a successful pollination, fertilization and seed development.

The goal of every living organism, including humans and plants, is to create offspring and ensure continuity for the next generation. One of the ways that plants can produce offspring is by making seeds which develops into fruits; for household consumption, export to generate revenue and some are selected for next season seed generation. In plants, seed production and further fruit development occurs through pollination.

Whilst some crops are open and wind pollinated, a majority of crops are insect pollinated. Therefore, increase yield depends on the ability of these insects to transfer high quality pollens to the anther of a plant. These pollinators are specific for different crops and in some cases, more than one insect species can pollinate a single plant.

A wide range of pollinators are found in the Hymenoptera and Diptera insect orders. The carpenter bees (Xylocopa spp.) and bumble bees (Bombus spp.) are important pollinators of tomatoes and other solanaceous crops. Their ability to pollinate depends on the abilities to vibrate their bodies that shakes pollen from the enclosed anthers of tomatoes and transport them to the stigmas. It is important that farmers monitor their farms to take note of this little but very important behaviors.

Pollinator species and abundance is currently on the decline and the current complain of yield reduction is outrageous, adding to adverse climate variability and extremities. With this trend, what will the pollinator abundance and species richness be by 2050?

In most cases, cultivation methods practiced by farmers are the main causes of pollinator decline. Agrochemicals are used as ‘silver bullets’ by farmers for the purpose of increasing yields. Surprisingly, most of this pollinators are more susceptible to these synthetic chemicals that the intended pests. Intensification of monocultures have also magnified the problem and simple practices to maintain their numbers are lacking.

Amidst the several available options, one way to introduce and / or augment pollinator pollination is grow flowers around your field or provide a stripe of flowers inside your farm. This will attract more pollinators and maintain their population.

Author: therese[at]