Busy as a bee, €4m a year to Irish economy

Researchers from Trinity College Dublin have shown that bees contribute almost €4m to the Irish economy each year, simply by improving seed production in crops of oilseed rape.

Known for its brilliant yellow flowers, oilseed rape is being grown to an increasing extent in Ireland as farmers respond to a heightened demand for pure plant oil. This oil is an important source of biofuel and could ultimately reduce our reliance on non-renewable fossil fuels as we seek greener, more environmentally friendly solutions to energy demands.

The crop is pollinated adequately by the wind, but, for the first time in Ireland, researchers were able to show that foraging bees transferring pollen from flower to flower greatly boost the all-important yield. When bees were experimentally excluded from visiting the flowers, seed production was, on average, 27pc lower than when they had open access.

This discovery, which will soon appear formally in the international Journal of Insect Conservation, added to related findings that were reported in another article in the journal GCB Bioenergy. Both papers sprang from research conducted as part of the Sectoral Impacts on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services initiative, which received €1.6m in funding from the Environmental Protection Agency over a five-year period.

Oil seed rape in flower in April. Photo O’Gorman Photography

 

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