SRINAGAR: While pesticide and fungicide use is aimed at improving crop yield, the same has been wiping out some of the most eco-friendly of insects, including bees, which experts say are vital for enhancing yields.
The quiet death of these buzzing creatures, according to scientists, is on a surge as Kashmir agriculture and horticulture sectors are becoming highly dependent on chemical compounds to bolster their produce.
Shafiq-ur-Rehaman, leading toxicologist and head of the environmental sciences department at Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology of Kashmir (SKUAST-K), told Kashmir Reader that they had established the fact that increased pesticide use had resulted in the declining bee population.
“Given that ours is a more rampant and crude method of using pesticides and fungicides, the casualty has been our eco-friendly insect populations, including bees,” he said.
Numerous studies have already established that chemicals within pesticides and fungicides not only take a toll on human health, but have been a major contributing factor in the decline of bee colonies.
Rehaman said that their research locally had found that chlorpyrifos, a pesticide in wide use here, resulted in severe damage to bees’ nervous systems, causing their death.
The finding, Rehaman said, revealed that chlorpyrifos contamination resulted in neuro-oxidative stress in Italian bees – apis meliorate, a predominant bee type popular among bee keepers. The pesticide also contaminates bee products, resulting in loss in honey production and damage to future progeny.
“Death and the disturbed nervous system of these pollinators considerably reduce the yield of cross-pollinated crops,” Rehaman said.
He added that pesticides that are harmful to humans and to bee populations have been phased out in developed countries, but in India, the process is either slow or yet to even begin.
Apiculture development officer, Srinagar, Talid Riyaz said that though beekeepers mostly do not report such losses, bee heath is in peril, and their populations are on the decline.
The loss is severe in many instances as there is no warning to hive owners before the application of pesticides, particularly when flowers are in bloom.
Talid said that many beekeepers themselves avoid setting up camps near orchards, but as bees search over vast areas for nectar and pollen, they do fall victim to pesticide sprays.
Narrating his own experience at Manigam in Ganderbal district a few years ago, Talid said that a significant bee population was lost unexpectedly after nearby cultivators sprinkled fruit-ripening pesticides.
He said that bee keepers are approaching them in search of ways to raise bee colonies without the use of chemicals, even for treating several bee diseases.
“Many want to generate organic Kashmir honey, as it has a huge international demand. Pesticide usage can seriously impact this as such compounds do pose a threat,” Talid said.