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EU schemes 'failing to make farms bee-friendly'

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Bee minus: The number of pollinators is continuing to fall

Bee minus: The number of pollinators is continuing to fall

Bee minus: The number of pollinators is continuing to fall

Farmers should be made to prove their farms are bee-friendly before getting support payments, scientists have said.

Researchers from Trinity College Dublin are among teams from 18 countries who found existing EU schemes to encourage bee-friendly agricultural practices are failing.

That is despite agriculture's critical dependence on bumblebees, honeybees, hoverflies and other insects to pollinate 70pc of all crops.

The scientists said new initiatives and incentives should be introduced as part of the upcoming reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Since 1992 farmers have been encouraged to counteract the effects of intensive agriculture on pollinators by preserving hedgerows and ditches, growing trees and leaving fields or field margins to go wild.

"Unfortunately, the success and cost-effectiveness of such schemes at halting biodiversity declines remains debatable," the scientists concluded.

They said that, despite farm payments being conditional on compliance, there was little monitoring or quality assurance. Meanwhile, pollinator numbers continue to decline.

"The CAP post-2020 should focus on improving habitat quality, for example incentivising positive management via result-based payments," the researchers' report added.

Jane Stout, a botany professor at Trinity, said: "It's not just enough to protect areas for wildlife in farmland, but these areas also need to be managed appropriately. That means making sure there is a diversity of resources for bees and other pollinators to feed on right through the year, and places for wild pollinators to nest or lay their eggs."

Irish Independent