Flower power on Indian farms

Flower Power on Indian farms helps bees and improves their livelihoods.
Scientists have found that planting flowers near food crops on Indian farms attracts bees, stimulates pollination and improves crop yield and quality.

The study, the first of its kind in India, was published this Monday, November 28, in the Journal of Applied Ecology and was carried out in southern India by ecologists from the University of Reading in England and the MS Research Fund. Swaminathan, India.

Scientists are focusing on growing moringa, a nutrient-dense “superfood” and its main pollinator: bees.

When planting clumps Tagetes erectaand pigeon pea, a type of bean, Cajanus CajanIn addition to the moringa trees in the orchard, the team increased the abundance and diversity of insects visiting the flowers, ultimately improving pollination and increasing crop productivity.

Dr. Deepa Senapati from the University of Reading said: “Planting flowers on agricultural land is a tried and tested practice used on many farmlands and orchards in the UK and across Europe. This agricultural technique is known to increase the number of pollinating insects. We work with farmers in South India to develop the best co-flowering plants and increase the number of native bees and other pollinating insects visiting moringa orchards.“.

Perfect results

Flower power
Moringa interventions on smallholder farmland

The research team worked with smallholder farmers in 24 Moringa orchards in the Kannivadi region of Tamil Nadu, India. They helped them plant beans and pompadours in 12 gardens, while they did not plant these plants in the remaining 12 gardens.

The number and diversity of visitors that occurred in bean and tussock orchards increased by 50% and 33%, respectively, compared to non-bean sites. Sites with more insects visiting these diverse plantations also showed better crop quality with larger moringa fruits.

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Fields planted with beans and tussocks that were not previously pollinated have produced higher yields using this method. This shows the power of flowers in their contribution to biodiversity. Moringa fruit production increased by 30% in orchards with trees associated with beans and bushes compared to orchards without them. “Higher yields and higher quality fruit will lead to a better and healthier food supply for small farming communities. Farming communities can also use beans as a source of protein in their diet and generate additional income through the sale of tussock flowers.“.

Pollinator-dependent crops and the power of flowers

The research was carried out as part of the TROPICAL project, led by a team from the University of Reading, using UKRI funding from the Global Challenges Research Fund, to investigate how findings from UK research could be used in tropical landscapes, in which pollination-dependent crops grow have grown.

India is home to many crops with high economic and nutritional value, such as mango and moringa, which have the potential to significantly improve the pollination performance of crops. Intensive agricultural practices, high use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and loss of natural habitats are negatively impacting India’s biodiversity, including native bees and other pollinators.

Small-scale farmers in the tropics, whose crops depend on native pollinators, are particularly vulnerable to these impacts. The research shows how farmers can increase their productivity by managing their land more sustainably and harnessing the power of flowers.

With information from: https://www.eurekalert.org/
https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1365-2664.14532

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