Bee-Friendly Plant Breeding - Proposals to ensure pollinator's food resources in agricultural areas

Download the Bee-Friendly Plant Breeding publication here.

Beekeepers across Europe have reported a decline in bee’s attractiveness toward usually melliferous crops. Honey production from usually highly melliferous crops has also decreased, such as for example sunflower. As a result, the crops that were an important food source for pollinators in agricultural areas are losing their potential.

By focusing plant breeding primarily on criteria such as yields, productivity, pathogen resistance or stability in production, the resulted varieties might have decreased their melliferous characteristics, nectar production, crop attractiveness or even cross- pollination character[1].

Contrarily to the current trends in plant breeding, encouraging the selection of varieties with high nectar/pollen production and/or melliferous characteristics would participate in supporting pollinators’ populations by providing food for them [2,1,3]. Alternatively, even if high nectar/pollen production is not maximised, future plant varieties should at least not lose their nectar or pollen potential.

Read our publication 'Bee-Friendly Plant Breeding', describing different possibilities to improve the situation, by aiming to maintain the melliferous potential of plants. On the one hand, there is the legislative approach, which aims at fixing as a criterion for the inclusion in the official catalogue the melliferous potential of melliferous crops. On the other hand, there is the commercial option, which aims at fixing the same criterion which is to be included in quality or certification schemes.

Currently, the European Commission is working on options to update the existing legislation on the production and marketing of plant reproductive material ('PRM study'), with the aim to make the Seed Directives more comprehensive and align them with the goals of the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies.

Based on the findings of the PRM study, the European Commission will present legislative proposals for the revision of the PRM legislation by the end of 2022. The proposals will be accompanied by an impact assessment. You can see the roadmap of the initiative here.

[1] Cerrutti N, Pontet C. . Differential attractiveness of sunflower cultivars to the honeybee Apis mellifera L.. OCL - 2016, 23(2) D204.

[2] Pierre J, Mesquida J, Marilleau R, Pham-Delegue MH, Renard M. Nectar secretion in winter oilseed rape, Brassica napus—quantitative and qualitative variability among 71 genotypes. Plant Breeding. 1999 Dec 1;118(6):471-6.

[3] Kamler F, Jas S. Nectar production of selected winter rape cultivars. Journal of Apicultural Science. 2003;47(2).