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Cambridge to host online seminar on pollinators




'Give Bees a Chance!' - part of the #AnnualFoodAgenda series - has been organised by the University of Cambridge.

Hamish Symington, researcher in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Cambridge, feeding one of the bumblebees he uses to test insect responses to different shapes of flowers
Hamish Symington, researcher in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Cambridge, feeding one of the bumblebees he uses to test insect responses to different shapes of flowers

A fenland farmer pioneering a scheme to encourage wildlife back to farms will be joining other experts on an online panel this week.

The discussion, which will take place on Thursday, December 10 from 6.30pm to 7.35pm, will focus on ways to boost the pollinators vital to the production of many crops. It will conclude with questions from the online audience.

Tom Clarke farms 1,000 acres of prime agricultural land and set up Ely Nature-Friendly Farming Zone in partnership with the RSPB two years ago. He hopes the event will be an opportunity to share new research and developments.

“Forget about farming and nature being in conflict,” he says. “Today, you really can’t have one without the other. Nurturing key insect and pollinator species is an important part of how we can feed the world, while reducing our impact and restoring nature.”

Tom Clarke, who farms at Prickwillow, Ely, in a sugar beet field with his children
Tom Clarke, who farms at Prickwillow, Ely, in a sugar beet field with his children

The event is being organised by Cambridge University’s Global Food Security IRC and Cambplants Hub. The discussion will focus on the vital role of bees and how farming practices and scientific research can help to restore populations of bee species depleted over recent decades.

Speakers will include Professor Dave Goulson, whose book A Sting in the Tale was chosen as a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week in 2013. He champions the UK’s 20-plus species of bumblebee and founded the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.

Goulson will be joined by conservation scientist Dr Lynn Dicks and plant scientist Hamish Symington, both experts from Cambridge University.

Dicks’ research highlights the importance of wild pollinators in food production. She says: “Pollinators are needed to get the best yields in three quarters of all the world’s major food crops. These tiny animals are directly responsible for at least five per cent of global food production.

"They are also wonderfully diverse and beautiful, and they need looking after.”

Hamish Symington is part of a research group investigating the evolution of flower development and its relevance to pollinating insects. He aims to identify features that make flowers attractive to pollinators.

Plant breeders can then enhance these features to help bees move between flowers faster, helping them pollinate more plants, and collect more nectar and pollen more quickly.

The online discussion will be chaired by Professor Howard Griffiths, co-chair of Cambridge Global Food Security, an interdisciplinary research centre at Cambridge University.

Register for tickets at eventbrite.co.uk/e/give-bees-a-chance-how-can-we-help-beesand-feed-the-world-tickets-130557612333. Booking ahead is advised.

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