Reversing Pollinator Decline is Key to Feeding the Future

June 27, 2016

From: USDA | National Institute of Food and Agriculture

Sonny Ramaswamy, Director, NIFA


The following are a few, recent accomplishments resulting from NIFA funding provided to university, government, and private partners.

  1. The Bee Informed Partnership (link is external) (BIP), an extension-led consortium of bee researchers and extension specialists, is working closely with beekeepers and queen breeders to demonstrate monitoring techniques for disease and mite management. The partnership is also working with queen breeders to use regionally appropriate practices for selecting mite and disease resistance traits.  Recent findings show that beekeepers who follow BIP guidelines to manage varroa mites have a 20.4 percent annual colony loss rate, which is a remarkable improvement.
  2. Washington State University (WSU) researchers successfully recovered germplasm from a unique honey bee strain from Kazakhstan to enhance the high quality genetic traits in honey bee stock.  The WSU Honey Bee Germplasm Repository will use cryopreservation (deep freeze) methods for long-term storage of bees to be used for breeding improved honey bee strains and for distribution to major honey bee queen producers in the United States.
  3. American foulbrood (AFB) is a prevalent and serious bacterial disease that affects honeybees. University of Nevada-Las Vegas researchers used NIFA funding to identify a virus that attacks AFB. Experimental trials to treat AFB infections have significantly reduced AFB levels and increased overall honey bee colony health.
  4. NIFA awarded $9 million to a team led by Michigan State University (link is external) to study the performance economics and farmer perceptions of different pollination strategies.  Most recently, investigators provided the first-ever quantitative assessment of the status and trends of wild bees the United States.  Estimates showed that wild bees declined 23 percent across the United States between 2008 and 2013.  The declines appear to be a result of conversion of natural habitats to row crops, such as corn and soybeans, in the Midwest.
  5. NIFA-funding helped develop and distribute Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)-based K-8 lesson plans—“Local Heroes: Your Hardworking Pollinators”—to 3,000 formal and non-formal educators.
  6. More than 100 land-grant colleges and universities receive national program leadership and funding support from NIFA to create extension education programs for their communities.  One example is the integrated pest management program (link is external) at Lincoln University that helps farmers minimize pesticide use.

NIFA invests in and advances agricultural research, education and extension and seeks to make transformative discoveries that solve societal challenges.

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