Learn why we need pollinators in our diet to survive, as well as how you can support pollinator health with your diet choices.
Since you’re enjoying a beautiful, healthy bounty of seasonal produce, you might not think of all the magic that has been put together in order to have those delicious fruits and vegetables on your plate. There was healthy soil, nutrients, water, and sunlight that nourished those seeds and roots to thrive and bear fruit. Then, of course, there are the farm workers who toil under the scorching sun, often enduring the rigors of growing, caring for, and harvesting this food. But there’s another factor that people often don’t think about in food production: pollinators.
What are pollinators?
As it turns out, those birds, bees, and butterflies circling the farms were doing more than just making noise and looking pretty. These are examples of pollinators responsible for pollinating plants by helping flowering plants to reproduce. Pollination occurs when pollen taken from the male organ of the flower moves to the stigma of the female flower. This process can occur by assisted self-pollination abiotic factorsAnd the Such as wind, water, or with the help of biotic factors.
Why are pollinators important?
Pollinators play a very important role in our diet. Around 35% of our food crops Depend on them to reproduce. Without them we wouldn’t have juicy apples, creamy avocados or sweet strawberries, just to name a few! Pollinators aid in pollination by transferring pollen from one flower to the reproductive parts of another flower when they are feeding on or visiting plants. Next, the plants use the pollen deposited by the pollinators to produce fruit or seeds. They do a lot of work, and it shows, 75-95% Of all flowering plants need pollinators for successful pollination.
In addition to aiding the growth of plants that produce edible fruits, flowers, vegetables, and nuts, pollinators also contribute to the entire ecosystem in various ways. They help in the growth of plants that produce Raw materials Such as soybean, canola and cotton. They also help Reducing carbon emissions By contributing to the growth of plants that store carbon dioxide, which leads to carbon dioxide being trapped in the soil rather than polluting the air.
Threat to pollinators
Currently, scientists and organizations, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, are concerned that the health of pollinators is deteriorating due to Multiple environmental pressures. If pollinators are completely gone, It is estimated that That crop production in larger countries would fall by 5% and by 8% in smaller countries. There is no doubt that their loss would be devastating to regions currently experiencing food insecurity.
Some of the current threats to pollinators include habitat loss and climate change. Habitat loss indicates a decrease in the living spaces of pollinators due to agriculture and commercial use of outdoor areas. Climate change describes changes in temperature and weather. These transformations affect pollinators By changing the growing seasons For plants that depend on it for nutrition. In addition, temperature changes change migration patterns For hummingbirds, white-winged pigeons, monarch butterflies, and pollinated bats.
Eating to support pollinators
Because pollinators do more than just pollinate, it is important to protect them and practice actions that nurture pollinator health. There are steps we can take in our daily lives to support pollinator health, including changing our diet and practices when gardening.
Eat pollinator-friendly foods
Pollinators, especially honeybees, contribute 1 out of every 3 bites from the food we consume. That’s a lot! Crops that depend on pollinators are foods that need pollinators for fertilization. Pollinator foods such as avocados, Brazil nuts, and berries can support pollinator health by providing pollinators with food sources in the form of nectar and pollen. The increasing demand for pollinated foods is also helping to stabilize our food supply and strengthen the local ecosystem.
Try pollinator-friendly recipes
Here are some examples of pollinator-friendly botanical recipes.
Grow a pollinator-friendly garden
When the habitat needs of pollinators are met, they make Great contributions to pollinate crops. Pollinators need our help creating and maintaining habitats in which they can thrive. And as humans, gardeners, and consumers, we can take steps to protect pollinators and encourage pollinator health with some practices. Cultivation of pollinator-friendly plants, which provide nutritional support and natural ecosystems for pollinators, varies by region. Some common examples of plants that are friendly to pollinators include different types of milkweed, lavender, and sunflower. Xerces Association offers pollinator-friendly Plant Lists for different regions across North America. Research your area and learn what you can do to support local pollinators.
- Reduce the use of pesticides
Reducing the use of agricultural chemicals such as pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides in your yard or garden is one of the simplest things you can do to support pollinator health. You can also choose certified organic foods, which restrict the use of most synthetic pesticides. Insecticides, such as neonicotinoidsHarmful to bees, even in small amounts. Once absorbed by plants, neonicotinoids can have toxic effects on pollen and pollinators feeding on nectar. For honey bees, neonicotinoids can affect flight, navigation, memory, and hive productivity. Neonicotinoids are also known to cause reproductive impairment in bumblebees and solitary bees.
- Implementation of habitat conservation practices. Another way to help pollinators is by creating and maintaining community gardens with pollinator-friendly habitats. You can also practice Pollinator-friendly land use practices. Pollinator-friendly land use practices are behaviors that benefit pollinators and the environment. Some examples include monitoring habitats for contamination and providing pollinators with shelter during adverse weather conditions.
There is so much you can do with your diet, lifestyle, and practices to help support your pollinators, who work so hard to help nourish us!
Written by Kara Joseph, Nutrition Intern, with Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN
Sharon Palmer Images, MSFS, RDN
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