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Mutually beneficial pollinator diversity and crop yield outcomes in small and large farms

Science  22 Jan 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6271, pp. 388-391
DOI: 10.1126/science.aac7287

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More-diverse pollinators improve crop yields

It is known that increased pollinator diversity can improve the yield of agricultural crops. However, how best to both produce food and maintain diversity is still debated. Garibaldi et al. show that on small farms, which provide food for the most vulnerable populations globally, pollinator diversity can significantly increase productivity. Thus, the management of crops and surrounding areas for ecological health is likely to benefit both wild pollinator populations and farmers.

Science, this issue p. 388

Abstract

Ecological intensification, or the improvement of crop yield through enhancement of biodiversity, may be a sustainable pathway toward greater food supplies. Such sustainable increases may be especially important for the 2 billion people reliant on small farms, many of which are undernourished, yet we know little about the efficacy of this approach. Using a coordinated protocol across regions and crops, we quantify to what degree enhancing pollinator density and richness can improve yields on 344 fields from 33 pollinator-dependent crop systems in small and large farms from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. For fields less than 2 hectares, we found that yield gaps could be closed by a median of 24% through higher flower-visitor density. For larger fields, such benefits only occurred at high flower-visitor richness. Worldwide, our study demonstrates that ecological intensification can create synchronous biodiversity and yield outcomes.

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