On May 20, 2021, for the fourth consecutive year, World Bee Day will be held. The purpose of this day is to recognise the essential role played by pollinators in the preservation of ecosystems. The contribution of pollinators to agriculture is considerable. It is estimated that 75% of plants producing foodstuffs are pollinated.
According to the FAO, pollinators contribute to the production of 87 of the world’s major food crops. Moreover, crops that depend on pollination are five times more valuable than those that do not. The value of the world’s crops that depend directly on pollinators for their fertility is estimated at between €200 and €520 billion per year.
And, over the past 50 years, the volume of agricultural production dependent on pollinators has increased by 300%. These figures reflect the importance of pollinators in sustaining livelihoods across the planet. It is therefore understandable that a decline in pollinator populations could lead to a true ecological catastrophe that would not only be detrimental to ecosystems but also to humankind.
The birth of an idea
At the end of 2013, I got in touch with the European Association of Professional Beekeepers and its President, Walter Haefeker, to explore possible co-operation between our industry and the world of beekeeping.
Born from this meeting and the discussions that followed was the European Bee Award, the first edition of which was held in December 2014, at the European Parliament in Brussels. Since then, the European Bee Award takes place annually at the European Parliament under the patronage of European Parliamentarian Franc Bogovič, Slovenia’s former Minister of Agriculture.
The award aims to protect pollinators through technical innovation and the implementation of new agricultural practices. In recent years, the European Bee Award has rewarded a wide variety of projects. One example is the prize awarded in 2016 to the double knife system with automatic sharpener. This mower cuts grass in meadows, while repelling pollinators which would otherwise be crushed by the blades.
Special seeder helps to preserve pollinators
In 2018, a project called “Sem’Obord” – an innovative seeder – was awarded. Field edges can host a wide variety of floral and animal species. However, in many cases they have deteriorated. Conventional seeding equipment is not suitable due to the inaccessibility of these linear semi-natural habitats and their small size. Sem’Obord is a narrow seeder installed on the arm of a flail mower, which gives it the ability to seed different types of habitats, like field edges and roadsides. This seeder better preserves pollinators by providing them with improved food resources and overwintering sites.
Since 2017, the jury has seen an increase in innovative projects based on digital technologies.
Since 2017, the jury has seen an increase in innovative projects based on digital technologies. A Special Mention was given in 2018 to “Beescanning,” an online Tagger tool which helps beekeepers around the world to save their bees using an artificial intelligence-based app on their smartphones. Beescanning analyses images of bees infected with the parasitic varroa mite, which kills hundreds of thousands of colonies each year.
More recently, in 2020, the Università degli Studi di Torino was awarded for its development of a radar which spots nests of Asian hornets, another major predator of honeybees. Detection is a prerequisite for the selective destruction of their nests in order to spare the European species of hornets, which must also be protected.
About the European Bee Award
The European Bee Award is organised by the European Landowners’ Organisation (ELO), which is well known in Brussels for its numerous actions in favor of environmental protection. Each year three projects are selected by a jury including a representative of the European Parliament, the European Commission and ELO. The winners of the two main categories each receive €4,500, while a diploma of honor is awarded to the winner of the Special Mention.
Walter Haefeker and Gilles Dryancour are also members of the jury, chaired by Professor Dr Michael Garratt, from the University of Reading. Prof Garratt is a renowned specialist in the ecology of invertebrates and the impact of agricultural practices on pollination.
About Gilles Dryancour
For nearly 20 years Gilles Dryancour has been John Deere’s director of government affairs in Region 2, and making connections is critical to his and the company’s success in Europe. For this contribution he was recognised as a John Deere Fellow. In 2015 he and his wife Virginie attended a beekeeping course at the Heidelberg beekeepers’ training centre and became hobby-beekeepers managing five beehives.
His choice was first dictated by being a jury member for the European Bee Award, for which he felt it was necessary to acquire a solid foundation in beekeeping. He was then inspired by his fascination with the world of bees, which is deeply linked to the nature’s cycles, just like John Deere is.