Pollinators in Organic Farming Systems

Organic Agriculture April 25, 2011 Print Friendly and PDF

eOrganic author:

Mary E. Barbercheck, Penn State University

Pollination, the transfer of pollen from male to female reproductive parts of the flower, can be carried out by wind or by animals such as insects, birds, and bats. Pollination by insects is essential for the production of fruit by many common crop plants. Some crops that require insect pollination include those in the rose family (for example, apples, pears, stone fruits, almonds), cucurbits (melons, cucumbers, pumpkins, squash), onions, and carrots. The most common insect pollinators in agricultural systems are bees. Flies, wasps, beetles, moths, and butterflies can also serve as pollinators. Commercially, honeybees are by far the most common managed pollinator. Other kinds of pollinators, for example, bumblebees, orchard mason bees, and leaf cutter bees are cultured and sold for managed pollination. The farm landscape can be managed to conserve native pollinators, which may compensate for a lack of pollination by honeybees (Black et al., 2007).

Cuckoo wasp (F: Chrysididae) on goldenrod (Solidago sp.)
Figure 1. Cuckoo wasp (Family: Chrysididae) on goldenrod (Solidago sp.). Photo credit: Rajwinder Singh, Dept. of Entomology, Penn State University.

Bombus vagans on thistle flower
Figure 2. A bumblebee, Bombus vagans, on a thistle flower. Photo credit: Rajwinder Singh, Dept. of Entomology, Penn State University.

References and Citations

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This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.