On-farm experiences shape farmer knowledge, perceptions of pollinators, and management practices

Julia Osterman*, Patricia Landaverde-González, Michael P.D. Garratt, Megan Gee, Yael Mandelik, Aleksandra Langowska, Marcos Miñarro, Lorna J. Cole, Maxime Eeraerts, Danilo Bevk, Omri Avrech, Zbigniew Koltowski, Flor Itzel Trujillo-Elisea, Robert J. Paxton, Virgine Boreux, Colleen L. Seymour, Brad G. Howlett

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Mitigating pollinator declines in agriculturally dominated landscapes to safeguard pollination services requires the involvement of farmers and their willingness to adopt pollinator-friendly management. However, farmer knowledge, perceptions, and actions to support on-farm pollinators and their alignment with science-based knowledge and recommendations are rarely evaluated. To close this knowledge gap, we interviewed 560 farmers from 11 countries around the world, cultivating at least one of four widely grown pollinator-dependent crops (apple, avocado, kiwifruit, oilseed rape). We particularly focused on non-bee crop pollinators which, despite being important pollinators of many crops, received less research attention than bees. We found that farmers perceived bees to be more important pollinators than other flower-visiting insects. However, around 75% of the farmers acknowledged that non-bees contributed to the pollination of their crops, seeing them as additional pollinators rather than substitutes for bees. Despite farmers rating their own observations as being most important in how they perceived the contribution of different crop pollinator taxa, their perception aligned closely with results from available scientific studies across crops and countries. Farmer perceptions were also linked with their pollinator management practices, e.g. farmers who used managed bees for crop pollination services (more than half the farmers) rated these managed bees as particularly important. Interestingly, their willingness to establish wildflower strips or manage hedgerows to enhance pollinator visitation was linked to their ecological knowledge of non-bees or to government subsidies. Farmers adapted practices to enhance pollination services depending on the crop, which indicates an understanding of differences in the pollination ecology of crops. Almost half of the farmers had changed on-farm pollination management in the past 10 years and farm practices differed greatly between countries. This suggests integrated crop pollination measures are being adapted by farmers to reach best pollinator management practices. Our findings highlight the importance of studying local knowledge as a key to co-design locally-adapted measures to facilitate pollinator-integrated food production as ecological intensification tools.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01949
JournalGlobal Ecology and Conservation
Volume32
Early online date3 Dec 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPrint publication - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The questionnaire was drafted during one workshop organized by M. P. G., M. G. and B.G.H. at the University of Reading and financed by the European Cooperation in the field of Scientific and Technical Research – COST, SUPER‐B (Sustainable Pollination in Europe: joint Research on Bees and other pollinators), reference oc‐2013-1‐15320 . J.O. was supported by the ESCALATE graduate school of the UFZ. D.B. was supported by Slovenian Research Agency ( V4-1622 , V1-1938 and P1-0255 ). LJC was funded by the Rural & Environment Science & Analytical Services Division of the Scottish Government . BGH was funded by MBIE C11×1309 Bee Minus to Bee Plus and Beyond: Higher Yields From Smarter, Growth-focused Pollination Systems, MPI Sustainable Farming Fund project ( 12-015 ). We acknowledge the financial support of the Open Access Publication Fund of Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg , Germany.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors

Keywords

  • Conservation
  • Crop pollination
  • Ecological intensification
  • Farmer knowledge
  • Local knowledge
  • Survey

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