Stefanie Christmann of the International Center For Agricultural Research In Dry Areas will present the results of a new study to the United Nations this week. The results promise substantial increases in both income and biodiversity, and may be the key to reversing the catastrophic worldwide decline of bee populations, according to The Guardian.
Christmann’s strategy entails farmers devoting a quarter of their cropland to flowering economic crops such as spices, oil seeds, medicinal plants, and forage plants. The plan would allow for a fairly painless transition that would not hurt farming economy or production, and could potentially render the pending regulation of pesticides inconsequential.
The collapse of bee populations has created a budding panic among governments trying to stave off a potential worldwide famine if the steady decline of pollinating insects continues. More than 80 percent of food crops require insect pollination, with bees doing a significant amount of that work. Germany has calculated a decline of 75 percent in bee populations over the past 25 years, while Puerto Rico has reported an even steeper decline. Most nations do not have official data on the decline of pollinator populations, but scientists from around the world have reported an alarming decline in numbers.
.@ICARDA_CGIAR's scientist Stefanie Christmann works with Moroccan farmer Mohamad Kal. He increased yield by attracting more wild pollinators to his main crop. He does this by using small strips of crops, forage plants. #FarmingWithAlternativePollinators #10IKI @iki_bmub pic.twitter.com/mjNWWF8Yvo
— Katrin Park (@katrinpark) April 11, 2018
Most government responses to the issue have been problematic at best. Brazil voted to lift restrictions on pesticides earlier this year in an effort to boost their stagnating economy, while many nations in the EU have imposed bans on most insecticides and begun wildflower planting programs designed to lure pollinators. While Brazil’s decision will clearly continue to harm bee populations, the EU programs have proved expensive.
Christmann’s plan would both reduce government expenditure while also bringing increased income to farmers. She tested her theory in field trials in Uzbekistan and Morocco, in which her technique was tested against control groups of pure monocultures. Christmann found that the test fields cultivated a greater abundance and diversity of pollinators, while also allowing crops to be pollinated more efficiently, reduced pests such as aphids and greenfly, and increased both the quantity and quality of yields. In each of the four climatic regions that Christmann tested, the total income of all farmers decreased, with marked gains in fallow fields and on farms without honeybees. Massive gains in yield were reported on some crops, such as the semi-arid pumpkin crop that increased 561 percent.
Christmann’s technique is to essentially devote every fourth cultivation strip to flowering crops, while also lacing the land with cheap nesting support such as old wood and beaten soil that could provide burrows for ground-nesting pollinators, and planting sunflowers nearby as a wind shelter.
“There is a very low barrier so anyone in even the poorest country can do this. There is no equipment, no technology and only a small investment in seeds. It is very easy. You can demonstrate how to do it with pictures sent on a cellphone,” Christmann said.