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Avoiding a bad apple: insect pollination enhances fruit quality and economic value

Garratt, M. P. D. ORCID:, Breeze, T. D. ORCID:, Jenner, N., Polce, C., Biesmeijer, J.C. and Potts, S. G. ORCID: (2014) Avoiding a bad apple: insect pollination enhances fruit quality and economic value. Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment, 184. pp. 34-40. ISSN 0167-8809

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.agee.2013.10.032


Insect pollination is important for food production globally and apples are one of the major fruit crops which are reliant on this ecosystem service. It is fundamentally important that the full range of benefits of insect pollination to crop production are understood, if the costs of interventions aiming to enhance pollination are to be compared against the costs of the interventions themselves. Most previous studies have simply assessed the benefits of pollination to crop yield and ignored quality benefits and how these translate through to economic values. In the present study we examine the influence of insect pollination services on farmgate output of two important UK apple varieties; Gala and Cox. Using field experiments, we quantify the influence of insect pollination on yield and importantly quality and whether either may be limited by sub-optimal insect pollination. Using an expanded bioeconomic model we value insect pollination to UK apple production and establish the potential for improvement through pollination service management. We show that insects are essential in the production of both varieties of apple in the UK and contribute a total of £36.7 million per annum, over £6 million more than the value calculated using more conventional dependence ratio methods. Insect pollination not only affects the quantity of production but can also have marked impacts on the quality of apples, influencing size, shape and effecting their classification for market. These effects are variety specific however. Due to the influence of pollination on both yield and quality in Gala, there is potential for insect pollination services to improve UK output by up to £5.7 million per annum. Our research shows that continued pollinator decline could have serious financial implications for the apple industry but there is considerable scope through management of wild pollinators or using managed pollinator augmentation, to improve the quality of production. Furthermore, we show that it is critically important to consider all production parameters including quality, varietal differences and management costs when valuing the pollination service of any crop so investment in pollinator management can be proportional to its contribution.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Agriculture, Policy and Development > Department of Sustainable Land Management > Centre for Agri-environmental Research (CAER)
ID Code:35667


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