Our Relationship with Pollinators is Key to Food Production

By Anthony Reyes

Anthony was a farm production manager at Tilth Alliance — he is now a farm manager at the Homeless Garden Project.

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Agriculture is about relationships. It involves creating, maintaining and coordinating several relationships, simultaneously, be it farmer to consumer, soil to crop, food to our health and many others. Among the most important and overlooked relationships is that of pollinators and beneficial insects to the agro-ecosystem as a whole. Insects provide numerous benefits within an agro-ecosystem, and if managed properly, can reduce pests and increase crop yield.

Industrial agricultural practices treat pest control in a linear model, spraying fields with pesticides a practice which degrades the soil and surrounding ecosystems. This approach negates the beneficial role insects play in pest control.

An integrated pest management plan can greatly reduce the frequency and need to use other forms of control. More plant and crop diversity will increase the variety of insect populations, making the system be better suited to control a wider range of pests.

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Staff member Maren Neldam (left) and Rae Rome examine a honey bee hive at Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands.

Insects provide another extremely important role within any agricultural system: pollination. While some crops are wind pollinated, namely grains, many others require biotic pollination to produce a viable fruit or seed. Pollination is especially important for fruit production, where yields are significantly increased (as much as 80%) when pollination occurs. Attracting beneficial insects to an ecosystem requires a habitat suitable for native populations. There are many ways of establishing such systems, some of which we practice at our farm and gardens. At Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands, we have incorporated an insectary strip in our fields, native plants and hedgerows surrounding our food production zones and cover crops in our crop rotation plan.

beeflowerwebProviding habitat for pollinators means a healthier and more diverse ecosystem, biological pest control and increased yield from pollination. Join us in making friends with our fellow bees, as they provide more support than you will ever “beelieve!”

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