Pollination In China
By: Mariann Fercsik
It’s Not The Bees
“With the introduction of China’s Home Responsibility System in the 1980s, the farmers of Hanyuan County in Sichuan Province found it economically beneficial to replace their rice paddies with fruit orchards.
The mountainous slopes of the region lent themselves well to fruit production, particularly pears, for which Hanyuan County is now renowned.
Any crops grown beyond the quotas of China’s collectivized farming program could now be sold on the open market and, in order to maximize their yield, the farmers began to increase their use of pesticides.
This, in turn, had a negative effect on the population of the natural pollinators, and the local beekeepers were driven to relocate their colonies out of the cultivation areas.
With the disappearance of the bees, along with the desire to control the quality and purity of the pear varieties, the farmers began the labor-intensive task of pollinating their crops by hand.
With simple tools such as a bamboo stick and chicken feathers they embarked on a journey of learning, not just how and when to pollinate, but when to collect the stamens, how to dry them, and which varieties respond to which pollinizer.
Additionally, not all the pear varieties are self-compatible, so cross-pollination is needed in order to achieve a desirable crop.
With skill and patience, the farmers can produce high quality, high yield product, albeit with increased labor costs than if they relied on nature alone.
As industrialization continues to push up the cost of hiring a workforce, the farmers must find an alternative way of cultivating their crops in order for them to remain viable. With pear production accounting for 40 to 50 percent of the household income, the stakes are high and adaptability will be key to their success.
The return of the natural pollinators is possible, but this is unlikely without a coordinated approach to limiting the use of agrochemicals.
What the future holds is uncertain and further work is needed to find a successful solution that balances the economy with ecology.”