Pesticides are implicated in lower yields of pollinator-dependent crops in India

Wild honey collection in the Kutch region of Gujarat (India) last year fell to 50 tonnes from the usual 300 tonnes in previous years because of the fall in the number of honey bees. The yield of certain native crops like date palms, lemon, papaya and kesar mangoes has also decreased. In Malda, West Bengal, mango honey was once good business, but farmers say bees are now avoiding mango trees. Dr Parthiba Basu, University of Calcutta, has investigated the decline. His research team’s findings show that the yields of pollinator-independent crops have continued to increase, whereas pollinator-dependent crops have levelled off. In an attempt to identify an underlying cause for the pollinator decline, the team is comparing conventional agriculture with ecological farming. Basu states there is an obvious indication that within the ecological farming setting (where harmful pesticides are not used), there is pollinator abundance.

He added that if the team’s findings were extrapolated, this would offer a clear indication that India was facing a decline in natural pollinators, as ecological farming was only practiced on about 10-20 per cent of the country’s arable land. There are serious implications. Unlike those with access to a varied diet, Basu says there are certain vegetable crops that many people living near the poverty threshold rely on. If there is a pollination crisis, Basu suggests nutritional security could be affected.

Source: Deccan Herald, 13 January 2011