Soon farmers will have an app to help them save the bees! It can be a laborious process for a farmer to encourage bees to pollinate their crops. They would have to walk through her fields, assess possible locations, take measurements, crunch numbers and still, they could only guess a number of plants bees would pollinate. But soon farmers will have an app to help them calculate the crop productivity and pollination benefits of supporting endangered bees.
Bee expert Taylor Rickett from the University of Vermont is co-leading the app’s development and introduced the new interactive technology at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting panel, Plan Bee: Pollinators, Food Production and U.S. Policy, on Feb. 19.
The currently nameless app which will be launching later this year, allows users to explore land management scenarios, and virtually test how bee-friendly decisions would improve their business.
Pre-loaded with aerial images of North America, the app allows users to calculate their best practices for boosting pollination once their enter their address details. According to Ricketts. “You simply draw different options – from wind breaks to planting flowers or bringing in honey bees. The app will do a pollination, productivity, and eventually, a cost-benefit analysis. Farmers can then determine which choices bring the best return on investment.”
The app uses the first national map of U.S. wild bees as a base which found the key insects are disappearing in the country’s most important farmlands – including California’s Central Valley, the Midwest’s corn belt and the Mississippi River valley.
That study, led by UVM bee researchers, showed that with further bee losses, farmers could face higher costs and the nation’s food production could experience “destabilization” due to climate change, pesticides, habitat loss and disease.
Ricketts added “Farmers are a natural partner to protect bees because pollinators are essential for growing many foods,”
The hope is that the app will make the best available science and bee-friendly practices accessible to users – which can help making real steps to reverse bee losses.
“Government action is key, but saving bees requires more than that,” says Ricketts. “Leadership from the private sector, especially farmers and agricultural businesses, is crucial. Their choices will have a huge impact on whether pollinators fail or flourish. This gives farmers a chance to help with an issue that directly impacts their businesses”. What we all know is that it’s going to take a lot of work from everyone to save the bees.
By: Frances Levine Editor-in-Chief