Environment: Wild bees are critical to pollination

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Wild bees need love, too. @bberwyn photo.

‘protecting a wide variety of our wild bees is crucial …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new bee tracking study shows that protecting wild bees may be just as important as tackling the decline of domesticated honeybee colonies.

After tracking bees around the world, researchers concluded that only two percent of wild bee species pollinate 80 percent of bee-pollinated crops worldwide.

That means there’s a powerful economic rationale for conserving wild bees. It calculates the value of wild bee pollination to the global food system at $3,000 per hectare of insect-pollinated agricultural land, amounting to billions of dollars globally. Continue reading

Environment: Honeybees take another big hit

A widely used class of pesticides is probably responsible for a massive honeybee die-off.

A widely used class of pesticides is probably responsible for a massive honeybee die-off. @bberwyn photo.

Annual survey shows disturbing rise in summer bee colony losses

Staff Report

FRISCO — Commercial beekeepers took another big hit last summer, reporting that they lost more than 40 percent of their honey bee colonies during the past year. Summer losses were higher than winter losses for the first time in five years, stoking concerns over the long-term trend of poor health in honey bee colonies, according to University of Maryland scientists. Continue reading

Can organic farming save the world from global warming?

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Feed the world, and cut greenhouse gases? It can be done, scientists say. Photo courtesy USDA.

China study shows benefits of switching to sustainable, organic agriculture

Staff Report

FRISCO — A large-scale shift to sustainable organic farming could dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions — and improve soil quality and crop resistance to pests at the same time, according to a new study from China.

Since about a third of all global greenhouse gas emissions are produced by agriculture, scientists have been taking a close look at how to manage the production of food in a way that reduces the global warming footprint. With best practices in place, agriculture could become a net carbon sink instead of a source of heat-trapping pollution, some scientists assert. Continue reading

Study tracks huge surge in use of bee-killing pesticides

A honeybee gathers pollen on a wildflower in Austria.

A honeybee gathers pollen on a wildflower in Austria. @bberwyn photo.

Treatment of corn and soybean seeds driving the increase

Staff Report

FRISCO — Penn State researchers say the use of bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides spiked in the mid-2000s, not in response to a documented crop threat, but as a prophylactic treatment against uncertain insect attacks.

The growth is primarily due to the use of neonicotinoids in the treatment of corn and soybean seeds. In 2000,  less than 5 percent of soybean acres and less than 30 percent of corn acres were treated with an insecticide, but by 2011, at least a third of all soybean acres and at least 79 percent of all corn acres were planted with neonicotinoid-coated seed. Continue reading

EPA dials back use of dangerous systemic pesticides

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Pesticide-free sunflowers thrive on this organic farm in Austria. @bberwyn photo.

Agency says it won’t permit any new uses until pollinator safety studies are done

By Bob Berwyn

*More Summit Voice stories on pesticides and honey bees here

FRISCO — Under persistent pressure from the public and environmental activists, the EPA today started dialing back the use of systemic neonicotinoid pesticides that have been implicated in the decline and collapse of honeybee colonies around the world.

In a notice to entities using those pesticides, the EPA said it would not be accepting any new applications: “EPA believes that until the data on pollinator health have been received and appropriate risk assessments completed, it is unlikely to be in a position to determine that such uses would avoid “unreasonable adverse effects on the environment,” as required by federal environmental regulations, the agency wrote in its April 2 letter to registered users. Continue reading

New map IDs pesticide pollution hot spots

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Pesticide pollution hotspots are identified in a new map.

Global warming could exacerbate pesticide woes

Staff Report

FRISCO — The world has a long way to go to come to grips with pesticide pollution say scientists who recently created a global map showing which areas are most susceptible.

Their modeling suggests that streams across about 40 percent of the planet’s surface are at risk from the application of insecticides, with the Mediterranean region, the USA, Central America and Southeast Asia among the hotspots.

On average, farmers apply about 4 million tons of agricultural pesticides  annually, equating to an average of 0.27 kilograms per hectare of the global land surface. Continue reading

Wheat experts warn on global warming impacts

Wheat field in Upper Austria

A wheat field ripens under a summer sun. bberwyn photo

Extreme weather could cut global yields by 25 percent

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists in the biggest wheat-producing state in the U.S. issued a stark climate change warning last week, saying that 25 percent of the world’s wheat production will be lost to extreme weather if no adaptive measures are taken.

The research by scientists at Kansas State University concluded that global wheat yields are likely to decrease by 6 percent for each 1 degree Celsius of temperature rise. In the next few decades, that could add up to a 25 percent loss in global wheat yields. Continue reading

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