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Pollinating bees may be exposed to lethal levels of neonics in soil: study


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bee hive

New research suggests ground-nesting bees may be exposed to lethal levels of pervasive insecticides found in soil on farms across southern Ontario.

University of Guelph environmental sciences professor Nigel Raine and PhD student Susan Chan examined the hoary squash bee that feeds on the nectar and pollen of squash, pumpkin, gourds and melon, and is a crucial pollinator for those crops.

They estimated 36 per cent of the bee population studied encountered lethal doses of one major neonicotinoid — clothianidin — in the soil at 18 commercial squash fields in a region stretching from Peterborough, Ont., to the tip of southwestern Ontario.

Clothianidin was detected in 96 per cent of soil samples and another major neonic — thiamethoxam — was found in 81 per cent of soil samples tested. Researchers have yet to determine exactly how much of the insecticides were absorbed by the bees — that will be the focus of a future study — but said the results were troubling.

“It’s very concerning,” Raine said. “This is a major exposure risk. This is starting point to look at a real route of exposure and source of concern for non-honeybee bees.”

The team’s results were published last week in the journal Scientific Reports and funded by Ontario’s agriculture and environment ministries, as well as a federal grant.

Neonic pesticides are used all over the world, but their use has come into question because of growing research on the effect they have on pollinators.

Europe has imposed a moratorium on neonics and the U.S. has banned new uses for them.

Health Canada is currently reviewing neonics and has said it will provide measures to protect pollinators by the end of the year. It has also proposed new restrictions that include banning neonics from being sprayed on orchards and turf sites, and reducing their use on vegetables.

Much of the previous research on the deleterious effects of neonics has focused on honeybees, which nest in colonies away from soil.

Large doses of neonics in laboratory settings led to paralysis and death in honeybees by blocking signal transmission between neurons in the brain. Honeybees exposed to neonicotinoids take longer foraging trips as they age, suggesting they are unhealthy, can’t fly as fast or have a hard time remembering how to fly home, research has shown.

Research has also indicated neonics have led to death and reproductive problems among smaller birds, and high levels of the insecticides have made their way into nearby water systems because they are highly soluble.

But scientists have not really examined the risks faced by bees who nest in the ground, Raine said. Those bees make up the majority of more than 400 bee species found in Ontario, and most of the 900 types of bees found across the country, he said.

Hoary squash bees, like the ones examined in his study, live solitary lives where females dig out a series of tunnels and chambers in the ground, usually near their food source, and sleep there at night. The bees put nectar and pollen on a pad inside a chamber, then lay an egg on top and seal up the chamber, Raine explained.

Larvae then feed on that until the ground becomes warm enough the following spring to leave. Females will do the same thing as their mothers while males tend to spend less time in soil once they leave the nests, hanging out near the crops and sleeping inside the flowers.

The bees spend significant portions of their lives in the soil and females spend much of their lives digging through the soil.

The Guelph researchers examined the nectar and pollen of Cucurbita crops, which include pumpkin, squash and gourd plants, along with the soil they grow from, Raine explained.

“We found the most pesticides in the soil,” Raine said.

Neonic insecticides are either found as a coating on the seeds of crops, or sprayed into the soil just before seed planting, or sprayed on young plants. The insecticide is taken up by the plant and distributed through its tissue as it grows.

“We know that farmers are in a tricky situation, particularly pumpkin and squash farmers, because without the movement of pollen from the male flowers to female, you don’t have pumpkins, you don’t have zucchini,” Raine said.

“But you’re also trying to control cucumber beetles, which can destroy crops. We need to think about alternative avenues for sustainable crop production.”

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press

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Why Canadians Should Care About Land Loss

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Why Canadians Should Care About Land Loss

Developments are increasingly taking over Canadian farmland. Farms once took up much of Canadian land. However, that case is not true today. Only about 5% of Canada’s land is considered prime farmland. This prime land borders one of Canada’s fastest-growing regions, and once suburban development overtakes it, Canadian farmers will have a challenging time providing food for the cities.

Farmers in Canada make their livelihood by planting, growing, harvesting and distributing food to the Canadian populations. Without land, both farmers and the rest of those living in Canada will not get fresh, Canadian grown produce.

Here are some reasons why Canadian farmers should care about land loss:

  1. Farmland Provides Food

While this is an apparent reason, it’s an essential one. Prime farmland in Canada produces food for major Canadian cities. As farmers continue to lose land, they have to rely on a smaller acreage to make the same amount of food — if not more — for the growing population.

Over the past 10 years, almost 1 million hectares of agricultural land has diminished due to development and growing populations. Agriculture continues to adapt to land loss. However, further technological advancements must first take place to grow enough produce vertically rather than horizontally.

  1. Land Preservation Will Help the Economy

Farmland preservations come with a wealth of economic benefits. Agriculture contributes to the economy through the following ways:

  • Sales: For the economy to survive, there needs to be consumer demands and sales. Almost everyone purchases produce, so there will always be a demand for those goods. Without land to grow agricultural products, no sales will be made, and the economy could suffer.
  • Job opportunities: Less than 2% of Canada’s population works in the agriculture industry. While it’s not much, that’s still over 750,000 people. Preserving farmland shows a commitment to the industry. Land loss would create job loss. However, maintaining the farmland — and even reclaiming it, along with pastures — could boost the sector and, therefore, the economy. It would provide unemployed people with job security.
  • Secondary markets: Farmers are just one part of the food business. Because of farmers and farmland, secondary markets can thrive. These would include processing businesses, restaurants, schools, grocery stores and even waste management companies.

Canadian farmers should care about land loss because standing back and allowing companies to overtake the farmland could seriously affect the economy.

  1. Farmland Benefits the Environment

Wildlife often depends upon farmland for both food and habitat. Various types of farmland create diverse habitats for many different species. Without land protection, these habitats and food sources would be destroyed, leaving many animals without a place to survive. Many would have difficulty finding a native habitat.

Additionally, growing crops helps eliminate some of the carbon dioxide released into the air. Air pollution could decrease for Canadian cities as long as no more farmland is used for development.

One major problem occurring with Canadian farmland is desertification. This happens when the soil loses nutrients and becomes barren. The urbanization of Canadian farmland is the primary contributor to desertification, which speeds up climate change and harms the environment. Keeping farmland as-is will slow down climate change.

  1. Land Loss Affects Farmers’ Jobs

Perhaps the main reason why Canadian farmers should care about land loss is because their livelihood could be taken away. If they don’t have the means to keep up with technological advancements in the agricultural industry, they will not be able to continue their jobs if they experience land loss.

Agriculture is an essential industry. Not everyone can pick up the skills needed to grow their own food, and so many people depend upon farmers for nutrition and goods.

Take a Stand to Preserve Farmland

Farmland is a worthwhile and precious resource for many people. Reduction in farmland acreage will hurt Canadian farmers and the rest of the population, the economy and the environment. Taking steps to prevent more land loss can slow the rates of destruction and keep natural habitats thriving for both humans and animalls.

Click here read more stories by Emily Folk. 

I’m Emily Folk, and I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. Growing up I had a love of animals, and after countless marathons of watching Animal Planet documentaries, I developed a passion for ecology and conservation.

Canadian Agriculture More Energy Intensive, More Efficient

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Canadian Agriculture More Energy Intensive, More Efficient

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Canadian Agriculture More Energy Intensive, More Efficient

It’s no secret that agriculture has contributed to climate change through various means. For example, you may know that livestock generates greenhouse gas emissions due to how farms process it. That said, it’s now clear that farmers have found sustainable ways to offset those contributions. In Canada, it’s all about energy use.

Here’s how Canadian farmers have become more efficient as they raise crops and livestock, setting a standard the world should follow.

Energy Demand and Consumption Have Fluctuated

The demand for energy has increased across the agricultural sector as a whole. However, it’s key to note that farmers have begun to use less energy despite that fact. That points to more efficient practices. The farmers who complete their work productively save time, money and energy. As a result, Canadian workers have reduced their energy consumption per dollar by 17%. That’s thanks to sustainability.

The most common energy sources include fuel, gas and electricity. It’s how farmers use those resources that counts. Combined with technology choices and new practices, it’s clear that efficiency is more achievable than ever.

What Contributes to This Phenomenon?

It’s crucial for people in agriculture to explore eco-friendly alternatives. The grasslands that many western Canadian farmers cultivate contains excess carbon, so you can imagine what the country as a whole holds underneath its surface. Farmers have now adopted new methods to adjust how they harvest their crops. These systems are better for production, as well as soil and seed health overall.

The agriculture industry has gone through many changes, too. There are fewer farms — but those that still operate have employed agricultural technology to be as efficient as possible. These tools include different equipment that cuts down on time to increase proficiency. Plus, it’s now more common to use solar power as an alternative to traditional energy solutions.

Why Accuracy and Precision Matters

It’s a lot easier to be energy efficient when you don’t waste your resources. The means farmers practiced before they used specific innovations often created a time deficit. If you have a smaller machine, you likely need to do twice as much work. However, when you have access to equipment that fits your field, you don’t have to be as wasteful. The accuracy and precision created by technology make this a reality.

Soil Conservation Is Led by Ranchers

Many farmers have looked to ranchers for help. It’s a native part of ranching to preserve topsoil and other elements that are inherently sustainable. As a result, it seems like ranchers have been leading the charge against climate change for decades. The tactics they use to avoid tilling soil, for example, help preserve the amount of carbon that lies underneath the Earth’s surface.

The “no-till” practice is efficient in its own right. Rather than till your soil to plant a new crop, you simply leave behind what’s already there. This method is much better for soil nutrition, and it can keep carbon exposure at bay. As a result, you have much fewer carbon emissions. In general, the idea of soil conservation isn’t a new one, but old tricks can still work alongside modern technology.

The Future of Agriculture in Canada Looks Bright

If farmers continue on this path, it’ll be clear that climate solutions are at the forefront of their minds. These efforts create more benefits for them as they save time and money. Plus, there’s always the responsibility of maintaining the planet’s health. After all, without a strong ecosystem, agriculture would suffer. Through means that are more accurate and conservative, Canadian farmers have been able to become more efficient. Click here read more stories by Emily Folk. 

I’m Emily Folk, and I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. Growing up I had a love of animals, and after countless marathons of watching Animal Planet documentaries, I developed a passion for ecology and conservation.



How Canadian Dairy Farms Can Adjust to New Dairy Demand


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november, 2023

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