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Pollinators

Wild Willow Farm is excited to welcome you to our self-guided tour! Follow the signs around the farm and  learn about each landmark along the way. Thank you to local Chula Vista High School students for helping to create content for each QR code! 

What is Pollination?

When a pollen grain moves from the anther (male part) of a flower to the stigma (female part), pollination happens. This is the first step in a process that produces seeds, fruits, and the next generation of plants. There might be a threshold level of diversity necessary to maintain lower variation or higher stability in pollination. The exact shape of the function will depend on the biology of the crop, crop variety, the pattern of the landscape, and regional pollinator community, but the available data indicate that pollination stability will increase in landscapes with a diverse and abundant pollinator community. When a pollen grain moves from the anther (male part) of a flower to the stigma (female part), pollination happens. This is the first step in a process that produces seeds, fruits, and the next generation of plants.

 

Who are the pollinators?

Insects, birds, bats, butterflies, moths, flies, beetles, wasps, small mammals, and most importantly, bees are pollinators.

 

Pollinating animals travel from plant to plant carrying pollen on their bodies in a vital interaction that allows the transfer of genetic material critical to the reproductive system of most flowering plants – the very plants that:

  • bring us countless fruits, vegetables, and nuts,

  • ½ of the world’s oils, fibers, and raw materials;

  • prevent soil erosion,

  • and increase carbon sequestration

Scientists are warning us of an insect crisis as populations have fallen by 70 percent in the last few decades. The extinction rate for insects is eight times faster than it is for mammals or birds. We are creating an environment that is unfriendly to butterflies, bees and beetles, which we rely on for many things including food and medicines. On the other hand we are replacing them with insects, like cockroaches and mosquitoes, that can adapt to the changes we set in motion.

 

Why are pollinators in trouble?

One of the major reasons for insect decline is habitat loss. We have removed a third of the world’s forests, monoculture farmland and more highways and urbanization all contribute to habitat loss with a direct impact on insects. Another reason for insect decline is pesticide use. Neonicotinoids, a widespread insecticide used by US farmers, is 7.000 times more toxic to bees than DDT. The third reason is climate change. Climate change is great for cockroaches and mosquitoes but disastrous for others because they exist in stable bands of temperature. Additionally climate change is scrambling the seasons. As spring arrives earlier butterflies emerge from their cocoons earlier as well. This means we have plans not aligned with insects, which in turn are not aligned with birds, causing a cascade of problems through the ecosystem.

 

There are things we can do to help! Insects love overgrown lawns and unattended spaces. Insects like diversity and color and a range of plants, not perfectly trimmed lawns. To save ourselves we have to save insects. They represent food security and potential medicines.

Ecosystem services, defined as the benefits to human welfare provided by organisms interacting in ecosystems, are considered to be at risk. Somewhere between 75% and 95% of all flowering plants on the earth need help with pollination. They need pollinators. Pollinators provide pollination services to over 180,000 different plant species and more than 1200 crops. That means that 1 out of every three bites of food you eat is there because of pollinators. If we want to talk dollars and cents, pollinators add 217 billion dollars to the global economy, and honey bees alone are responsible for between 1.2 and 5.4 billion dollars in agricultural productivity in the United States. In addition to the food that we eat, pollinators support healthy ecosystems that clean the air, stabilize soils, protect from severe weather, and support other wildlife.

 

In the United States, one-third of all agricultural output depends on pollinators. Fruit and vegetable growers in Pennsylvania can attest to the significant role pollinators play in the production of many of our crops.  The commodities produced with the help of pollinators generate significant income for producers and those who benefit from a productive agricultural community. The positive pollination effect on crop yield can however be reduced or hidden when other factors affecting crop yields, such as soil nutrients, microclimate, water, pest, or disease status are suboptimal. Further, agricultural land use is not always expected to reduce pollination services.

 

The commodities produced with the help of pollinators generate significant income for producers and those who benefit from a productive agricultural community. Pollinators are also essential components of the habitats and ecosystems that many wild animals rely on for food and shelter. Other factors leading to pollinator decline include disease and the spread of invasive plant species. Whether you are a farmer or a homeowner, there are many ways you can learn about pollinators and help them to prosper by enhancing native pollinator habitats and protecting against pollinators.

 

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