Campus News

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News Release

December 06, 2001

Pollination conservationist wins prestigious Synergy Award

The pivotal role of pollinators such as honeybees in sustainable agriculture is starting to receive the attention it deserves, says a University of Guelph professor who is the recipient of a 2001 Synergy Award from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Conference Board of Canada.

Environmental biologist Peter Kevan and the Ontario Beekeepers' Association were among the six university-industry partnerships to receive the prestigious award, which is designed to foster innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship in university-industry research and development. The university partner receives a $25,000 research grant.

The award recognizes Kevan's collaboration with the Ontario Beekeepers Association, a consortium of 3,400 beekeepers. That work has benefited individual beekeepers as well as numerous growers' associations and individual growers, who have gained economically from planting their fields and orchards according to sustainable pollination methods.

For example, apple growers who follow agricultural practices that allow for pollination receive a 700-per-cent return on their investment, estimates Kevan, whose research has been commissioned by such organizations as the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers' Association, the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers, the Ontario Tender Fruit Producers' Marketing Board and Bick's Pickles, a division of Multifoods Inc., as well as by private farmers.

"The role of insect pollinators has been greatly underestimated and is a key constraint in contemporary agricultural practices," he says. "The economic value of such insects to pollination, seed set and fruit formation greatly outweighs the economic value of the honey and wax that honeybees alone produce."

But economic loss isn't the only concern for growers and agricultural policy-makers. Kevan warns that agricultural practices that disrupt natural pollination processes are putting Canada's and the world's food diversity and ecosystems at risk. To help increase pollinator sustainability in the agriculture industry, he will use his $25,000 grant to help launch the International Network for Expertise in Sustainable Pollination (INESP), a research resource centre that he hopes to locate at U of G.

"The centre is of great national and international importance," says Kevan. "The only way the general public can assess reliable scientific information about pollination is for those who are scientifically trained to weed out information that is outdated, anecdotal or just plain inaccurate. It's a matter of getting accurate, up-to-date information out to as many people as possible."

To date, INESP has been endorsed by researchers at numerous international universities, including the University of São Paulo in Brazil, Bonn University in Germany, the University of the Americas in Mexico, the University of Haifa in Israel, and by researchers at universities and other institutions in Italy, India, South Africa, Malaysia, the United Kingdom and the United States.


Prof. Peter Kevan
Department of Environmental Biology
(519) 824-4120, Ext. 2479

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