Insect pollination is at least as important for marketable crop yield as plant quality in a seed crop

Thijs P.M. Fijen*, Jeroen A. Scheper, Timo M. Boom, Nicole Janssen, Ivo Raemakers, David Kleijn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)


The sustainability of agriculture can be improved by integrating management of ecosystem services, such as insect pollination, into farming practices. However, large‐scale adoption of ecosystem services‐based practices in agriculture is lacking, possibly because growers undervalue the benefits of ecosystem services compared to those of conventional management practices. Here we show that, under representative real‐world conditions, pollination and plant quality made similar contributions to marketable seed yield of hybrid leek (Allium porrum). Relative to the median, a 25% improvement of plant quality and pollination increased crop value by an estimated $18 007 and $17 174 ha−1 respectively. Across five crop lines, bumblebees delivered most pollination services, while other wild pollinator groups made less frequent but nevertheless substantial contributions. Honeybees actively managed for pollination services did not make significant contributions. Our results show that wild pollinators are an undervalued agricultural input and managing for enhancing pollinators makes sense economically in high‐revenue insect‐pollinated cropping systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1704-1713
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number11
Early online date6 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018


  • Agricultural management
  • agro-ecology
  • crop pollination
  • crop yield
  • functional groups
  • species richness
  • structural equation modelling
  • visitation rate


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