The bee’s knees in food security

A study claiming that bees contribute to world food security by reducing food wastage says there should be more investment in pollination.Image

Up to 50 per cent of crops can go to waste between harvest and the supermarket, but a Swedish paper published in the Royal Society Journal says bees reduce that by increasing crop shelf life, quality and yield.

Helen Wallace, a professor of agricultural ecology in Queensland, says pollination is underestimated in Australia.

“One thing we don’t tend to do very much in Australian agriculture is we don’t manage bees very well,” she said.

“I think we’ve got a long way to go, we’re doing a big catch-up. I think we’re start to realise the importance of it, but again, I don’t think there’s been a lot of work done.”

It seems Australian authorities are trying to get ahead of the game.

The Federal Government has co-developed a Pollination R&D Plan, and the National Bee Pest Surveillance Program is working on defences to keep bee pests out of the country.

But farmers want more work on the farm.

South-east Queensland strawberry farmer Bill Sharpe says disrupted pollination ruined up to 20 per cent of his crop this year. Rains kept the bees away and prevented his fruit from forming properly.

He says authorities need to extend more support on the ground.

“There’s no one come around asking us how’s the bee populations going; there’s been no – this is just to my knowledge – census done on whether there’s enough or not enough,” he said.

“We’ve got a DPI – I know they’ve been cutting back here and there – that could certainly monitor (bee populations).”

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