Syllabus: General Studies Paper 3 (Indian Economy)
Describe the importance of pollination in agriculture? Give reasons for sudden decline in the population of pollinators also suggest preventive measures for the same. (10 Marks)
Pollination is not just fascinating natural history. It is an essential ecological survival function. Without pollinators, the human race and all of earth’s terrestrial ecosystems would not survive. Of the 1,400 crop plants grown around the world, i.e., those that produce all of our food and plant-based industrial products, almost 80% require pollination by animals. It has been estimated that 75% of crop species require or benefit from pollinators. Most of these are the fruits and vegetables that provide the bulk of our nutrients, although they are only about 1/3 of the food we eat. Globally, pollination services are likely worth more than 3 trillion dollars.
If we lose pollinators, many crop prices will increase as yields decrease and that will negatively affect human health. We would still have plenty of corn and wheat, which are wind pollinated, but most crops would be gone. Native plants also require pollinators, so pollinator losses is a threaten to natural areas and communities.
How pollination plays an important role in agriculture:
Three-fourths of the world’s flowering plants and about 35 percent of the world’s food crops depend on pollinators to reproduce. Some scientists estimate that one out of every three bites of food we eat exists because of pollinators like bees, butterflies, moths, birds, bats, beetles and other insects. Pollinators are a critical link in our food system.
- Pollinators, including some 20,000 species of wild bees, contribute to the growth of fruit, vegetables and many nuts, as well as flowering plants.
- Abundant and healthy populations of pollinators impact fruit sets as well as fruit quality and size which, in turn, increase production per acre across farms.
- Apples, pumpkins, soybeans, squash, melons, and many other crops raised in the region rely on pollinators.
- In 2015, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) found that pollinators lead to huge agricultural economic gains.
- The report estimated pollinator contribution in India to be $0.831-1.5 billion annually for just six vegetable crops. Nearly 70% of tropical crop species are dependent on pollinators for optimal yields.
- Pollination by honey bees contributes to over $19 billion worth of crops in the U.S. each year. Other pollinating insects, like butterflies, contribute to another $10 billion in crops.
- Many fruit, vegetable, oil, seed and nut crops that provide vital nutrients for human diets worldwide, including more than 90% of our vitamin C, are pollinated by insects.
According to living planet report a decline in the numbers of pollinators, especially the disappearance of bees that has the potential of having a huge impact on our food security, affecting 75% of global food production among others.
Reasons for decline in population of pollinators:
Pollinators which are responsible for US$ 235-577 billion in crop production per year, the changing climate, intensive agricultural practices, invasive species and emerging diseases have impacted their abundance, diversity and health. The decline of moths, bees, butterflies, hoverflies and other pollinators is undeniably linked to human activity likes
- Monoculture cultivation:
- Large tracts of natural habitats have been cleared.
- Aggressive agricultural practices that grow crops on every available acre eliminate patches of wildflowers and cover crops that provide food for pollinators.
- Use of pesticides and fertilisers:
- In a series of studies at the University of Calcutta, researchers have showed that native Indian bees, when exposed to multiple pesticides, suffer from memory and olfactory impairment, lower response rates, and oxidative stress which damages cells.
- In Kashmir, researchers have pinned lowering yields of apple trees on the declining frequency of bee visits. In north India, lowering yields of mustard cultivation may be caused by disappearing pollinators.
- Farming also exposes the creatures to pesticides, and bees are under attack from parasites and pathogens, as well.
- Loss of flower-rich habitats :such as hay meadows, rough grassland, woodland and hedgerows is often considered to be the main driver of changes in wild pollinator communities during the late 20th century. This particularly affects species with specialized ecological requirements.
- Intensive farming: with simplified crop rotations in large fields, high herbicide and fertilizer use and high livestock densities can have a negative impact on pollinators, due to the loss of flowers and nesting areas. Flowering crops (eg orchards, oilseed rape) do not compensate because they only provide transient nectar and pollen sources.
- Climate change: Many environmental changes can reduce pollinators’ access to essential resources such as food, nest sites and overwintering sites, or directly affect pollinator health. Deforestation also is a measure cause for reduction in pollinator population.
- The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)’s cross-cutting initiative on the conservation and sustainable use of pollinators aims to:
- Monitor pollinator decline, its causes and its impact on pollination services
- Address the lack of taxonomic information on pollinators
- Assess the economic value of pollination and the economic impact of the decline of pollination services
- Promote the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of pollinator diversity in agriculture and related ecosystems
- Creating or restoring flower-rich and semi-wild habitat will enhance pollinator abundance, health and diversity, and may also reduce the combined impacts of other threats (ex: agri-chemicals, climate change and pathogens) on pollinators. We can achieve this by incentivizing uptake by farmers of agri-environment schemes that support pollinators and more effective targeting of these schemes in the landscape.
- Citizens can be encouraged to plant wild flowers to help pollinators. Publicly owned spaces (eg parks, road and rail corridors) can be adapted to provide pollinator habitat, perhaps by less intensive management, which could also save money.
- Pesticide risk assessments need to take account of subtle (eg behavioural) effects on honeybees and other pollinator species (eg bumblebees and solitary bees), as these effects are probably interacting with other environmental pressures to affect pollinators.
- Promotion of organic farming
- Direct payment support to farmers to provide buffer strips for pollinators for nectar- and pollen-rich plants
- Forests can be restored to become thriving homes for pollinators
In the lush green fields where our fruits and vegetables are grown, there is a process of pollination perfectly exemplifies the interconnectedness of all beings. It is often forgotten or unseen by the general public, but without it, there would be far less food on our table, and medicine in our cabinets. Birds, bees bats, butterflies, and other animals all play a part. hence it is a duty of every citizen and government to work together in creating a feasible environment for pollinators to live and grow.
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