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Bee-friendly cropping systems

Inra was involved in the Polinov project with nine other partners. From observations in cereal growing plains, the project has enabled six innovate cropping systems to be designed combining reduction of insecticides, management adapted to the surface area and establishment of pollen and/or nectar rich crops or flower strips in the crops. The proceedings of the congress held on 29 November 2012 in Poitiers are now available on line.

Abeille domestique visitant une fleur de pommier. Des pelotes de pollen sont formées sur les pattes postérieures.. © INRA, CARRE Serge
By Inra Poitou-Charentes communications department
Updated on 09/09/2013
Published on 01/18/2013

Bees pollinate 80% of flowering plant species intended for human food, but they are suffering a significant decline. Protecting this pollination service is a major societal, ecological and economic challenge and as a result cropping systems need to be reinvented and major changes made concerning the use of pesticides, the choice of plants grown and more generally, the management of rural areas.

Ten partners to build new cropping systems together

Ten partners have been working together for three years on the Polinov research project to design innovative bee-friendly agricultural systems for arable crops. On 29 November 2012 in Poitiers, Acta (network of technical institutes) organised a project feedback congress, in collaboration with Istap-Bee Institute and Inra, with the financial support of the Poitou-Charentes region and Casdar (managed by the Ministry of agriculture, food and forests).The proceedings are available on line on the Acta website..

Bee nutrition and agricultural landscape

The monitoring of 250 hives in the 450 km²  Plaine & Val de Sèvre workshop zone in Poitou-Charentes has shown that in the cereal growing plains, the flora on which the bees feed from March to September is very irregular and can contain traces of pesticides. The perfect landscape for bees combines crops (rape, sunflower, alfalfa) appreciated by domestic bees and hedges; borders or edges of fields offer a more varied and regular flora.

Propose original solutions

To design new cropping systems, innovative techniques have been applied to four existing systems: irrigated or non-irrigated cereals, organic farming or cropping-livestock. These innovative techniques combine reduction of insecticides, management adapted to the surface area, and planting of pollen and/or nectar rich plants as main crops (hemp, alfalfa), intermediary crops (buckwheat, phacelia/clover) or flower strips in the plots.

The performances of six innovative systems were evaluated according to sustainability criteria integrating the farmers’ and bee-keepers’ points of view. The two innovative systems based on an irrigated cropping system are among the most efficient for producing honey and protecting domestic bees. However, the disadvantage is the additional economic and social cost for farmers, who, according to a survey of 103 farmers, are not ready to support the cost.

The innovations proposed by Polinov will be tested on farms within the framework of the Dephy-abeilles project. In any event, optimising the pollination service in a region will require the solid backing of agricultural (farmers, bee-keepers) and non-agricultural (local authorities, hunters, naturalists...) stakeholders.

Scientific contact(s):

Contact(s) partner(s):
Acta: Marie-Christine Sela-Paternelle, Communications officer (+33 (0)1 40 04 50 46), UMT Prade: Axel Decourtye, Itsap-Bee Institute, Arvalis-Plant Institute, Cetiom, University of Lorraine, Deux-Sèvres Chamber of Agriculture, Association for the development of bee-keeping, Poitou-Charentes, CNRS: Chizé Centre for Biological studies