Organic Farming Practices

Reducing Harm to Pollinators from Farming

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Resource explained: 

This fact sheet outlines ways in which you can minimise harm to pollinators when farming organically. Whilst the primary target audience is American, much of the principles and practices described are universally relevant.

It provides an overview of how common organic farming practices might affect pollinators and some recommendations of how you can alter your farming practices to improve pollination services and farm biodiversity.

The notes on farming practices and recommendations are divided in to: 

  • Weed control practices (primary and secondary tillage, flame and hand weeding, different mulches); 
  • Cultural management of pests (row covers, fruit bagging, classical and conservation biological control, crop rotation and diversity, trap crops, sanitation, crop resistant varieties, using sticky and pheromone traps); 
  • Other practices such as using cover crops and hay making. There is a useful quick-reference table summarising some key farming practices and whether they are neutral, beneficial or detrimental for pollinators.
Findings & recommendations: 
  • While organic farming does offer many benefits to pollinators, some common practices can harm them. It is important to balance production practices with conserving beneficial insects.
  • As in the UK, the role of native bees is crucial in the US due to the decline of the European honeybee because of disease and other factors.
  • It may not be possible for you to incorporate all the recommendations outlined in this document in your cropping systems, particularly if you have to consider other priorities such as weed control and pest management. However, in instances where you can follow the recommendations, you could benefit from improved pollination services and a greater biodiversity on your farm.
  • Many of the practices that protect pollinators also protect insects that can help manage pests.
  • When implementing weed control practices, you need to be particularly mindful of ground-nesting insect populations.
  • The most favourable pest cultural management farming practices rely on a more holistic approach, reducing the need for use of pesticides, helping boost habitats and providing additional food for pollinators whilst also encouraging beneficial insect predators.