Flower power on Indian farms

Flower power on Indian farms helps bees and improves 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 MS Research Fund . Swaminathan, India.

Scientists are focusing on growing moringa, a nutrient-rich "superfood" and its main pollinator: bees.

When planting tufts, tagetes erecta, and pigeon pea a type of bean, cajanus cajan, alongside moringa trees in the orchard, the team increased the abundance and diversity of insects that visit 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 method seen in many arable fields 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 engineer the best co-flowering crops and increase the number of native bees and other pollinating insects that visit moringa orchards.".

Perfect results

power of flowers
Moringa interventions on smallholder farmland

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

The number and diversity of visitors appearing at orchards with beans and tufts increased by 50% and 33%, respectively, compared to sites without them. Sites with more insects visiting these diverse plantations also showed better harvest quality with larger moringa fruits.

Fields planted with beans and tufts that previously lacked pollination have, with this method, given higher yields. This demonstrates the power of flowers in their contribution to biodiversity. The production of fruits Moringa increased by 30% in orchards with trees in association with beans and tufts, compared to orchards without them. “Higher yields and higher quality fruit will translate into a better, healthier food supply for smallholder farming communities. Farming communities can also use beans as a source of protein in their diets and receive additional income from the sale of tufted flowers.".

Pollinator-dependent crops and the power of flowers

The research was carried out as part of the TROPICAL project, led by a team at the University of Reading, using UKRI funding from the Global Challenges Research Fund, to investigate how evidence from UK research could be used in tropical landscapes where pollinator-dependent crops are 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 crop pollination services. Intensive farming methods, high use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and loss of natural habitats are negatively affecting biodiversity in India, including native bees and other pollinators.

Smallholder farmers in the tropics, whose crops depend on native pollinators, are especially vulnerable to these impacts. The research results show how farmers can increase productivity by managing their land more sustainably and tapping into the power of flowers.

Ecoportal.net

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