The Birds and the Bees and the Flowers and the Seeds…

Karen Adler's picture

With more than two-thirds of all agricultural plants dependent on insect pollinators, primarily bees, to produce seed, effective pollinator management is important to organic seed producers, especially in light of increasing pressures from two key challenges.

Challenge #1: Genetic contamination of seed crops

Undesirable outcrossing can occur when wind or pollinators transport pollen from an outside source into a seed crop field. This can produce a number of different results for organic seed producers; if two organic varieties are crossed, the result may be a new, undesirable variety, even if organic. However, when the movement occurs between an organic seed crop and a genetically modified seed crop, the result might be a seed crop with the genetically modified trait.

Challenge #2: Decline of bees

The decline of honey bees, and the various contributors to this problem, have been widely reported and discussed over the past few years. What is not as well known is that similar declines have occurred in our native bee species, which are also significant contributors to pollination.

Pollination management helps meet the challenges

Pollinator management in organic farm systems can play a significant role in reversing the trend of bee decline, according to the new Xerces Society bulletin, Pollinator Management for Organic Seed Producer, by Eric Mader and Jennifer Hopwood. Pollinator management also provides effective practices and techniques for managing cross-pollination and other issues, such as managing isolation distances and working with pollinator foraging distances.

Pollinator Management for Organic Seed Producers, created through a research project funded in part by OFRF, contains sections on nine common seed crop pollinators of North America, including honey bees, a variety of native bees, and wasps, accompanied by beautiful and useful photos, and describes strategies for managing their habitat needs in the production of a variety of seed crop systems. It also provides guidelines for pollination management of typically self-fertile or wind-pollinated crops such as corn, solanaceous species (tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplants, etc.), and common beans.

To read the outcome of The Xerces Society research project, Pollinator Conservation Strategies for Organic Seed Producers, download the Pollinator Management for Organic Seed Producers pdf.

And for a beautiful and breathtaking experience of pollinators, check out Wings of Life, a Disneynature film that brings to life the magical world of butterflies, hummingbirds, bees, bats, and flowers.

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