In China, farmers hand pollinate fruit trees

In China, farmers hand pollinate fruit trees

Farmers in China must manually perform the pollination task of their fruit trees such as apple and pear trees because there are no longer bees. The excessive use of pesticides and the lack of their natural habitat wiped out all pollinators.

To pollinate they use pollen jars and brushes and go flower by flower doing the job. Children collaborate with the task by climbing trees to reach the tallest flowers.

This unprecedented task is carried out given the value of these fruits, otherwise, such work would not be justified. If you think of manual pollination for all crops, this would not be possible because there are not enough humans in the world to pollinate all plants.

There are simple solutions, studies in Europe and North America have found that by planting strips of wildflowers near crops and leaving patches of natural vegetation such as trees and forests, it is possible to increase the pollinator population. These practices can also increase the population of natural predators, reducing the need to use pesticides.

With a little effort, it is perfectly possible to grow food and at the same time take care of the environment. In fact, if we look at it in the long term, this is probably the only way to grow food as otherwise agriculture could collapse.

Without bees, our diet would be incredibly poor. We would be forced to survive on wind pollinated crops: wheat, barley, corn and not much more than this. Imagine supermarkets and warehouses without raspberries, apples, strawberries, peas, pumpkins, melons, tomatoes, blueberries, and much more.

Bees and other insects have provided us with free pollination for our crops for centuries and will continue to do so if we learn to recognize their importance and return the favor by giving them what they need to survive.

But ... Why are there no bees in some regions of China?

History offers us a curious story from which we should learn how negative and dangerous it can be to break the environmental balance.

In an attempt to control and transform nature for our benefit, Mao Tse Tung had the incredible idea of ​​believing that certain beings (sparrows, mosquitoes, flies and mice) were detrimental to the performance of agriculture so he decided to declare war on them and began what was called "The campaign of the four plagues" with which he tried to exterminate these four species.

The sparrow owed its pursuit to eating stored grain, causing problems for agriculture. This led him to enter the list of dangerous animals. In the words of Mao Zedong, "Sparrows are one of the worst pests in China."

The campaign was a success, and it almost completely annihilated the sparrows.

The persecution was stopped in April 1960. In this year, scientists, alarmed by Mao's plan, published an investigation in which it was claimed that "sparrows eat more insects than grain"

Mao realized with this statement that he had been wrong, and addressed the media with the phrase “suàn le” (Forget them) with which the persecution of the sparrows was concluded.

But in some regions it was too late.

The plague of locusts

Despite having stopped the persecution, the damage caused by the annihilation of the sparrows brought with it the proliferation of locusts. These were responsible for a terrible plague that formed a very important part of the Great China Famine, a period of 3 years that ended the Great Step Forward in which an estimated 16 to 30 million people died. Miserable conditions were dire, crops were eaten by locusts, and scores of people died in poverty. The birth rate decreased and the death rate increased, and the economic damage was terrible, especially for the common people.

The insects began to multiply, to kill them, insecticides, pesticides were applied in enormous quantities, which did not distinguish between beneficial and harmful insects. The result was that pollinating insects became extinct in vast regions of China, including the best pollinator on the planet: bees.

Since then and more than 50 years have passed, in these areas, the pollination process has to be done by hand.

The residues that these products leave on the ground last for many years, even today the Chinese population of sparrows continues to decline. Conservatives claim that this is the result of the use of pesticides in agriculture

Curious story of a huge and tremendous error from which it seems that we have not yet learned enough, biotechnology, transgenics, the use of herbicides, pesticides, insecticides, chemical fertilizers, etc. are still on the agenda today, without understanding that anywhere moment we can break an equilibrium that has lasted for millions of years.

Sources :

China Dialogue

The Guardian


Rafael Llinas

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