LIST research: preserving bees and the environment

Published on 13/04/2018

Within the scope of its environmental activities, the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) supports the Ministry of Agriculture, Viticulture and Consumer Protection in the application of the Luxembourg agrarian law passed in 2016. In this context, LIST researchers are featured in a newly published video of the Ministry.

The agrarian law in a nutshell

The agrarian law covers the 2014-2020 period and promotes a sustainable and competitive agriculture for the protection of the environment, placing an emphasis on innovation. Farmers have a legislative framework updated in terms of support. The main components of this new agrarian law are subsidies for agricultural machines, investments in farms, agricultural products’ promotion or the support of young farmers. As mentioned by Gérard Anzia (déi gréng) when the law was passed, biological agriculture as well as viticulture also have to benefit from a stronger support.

Anticipating epidemics and parasite invasions

According to Paul Jungels, a professional beekeeper from Luxembourg, the health of bees has been under threat for several years and some beekeepers in Luxembourg suspect the role of pesticides used in traditional agriculture. To protect bees better, there are measures in the new agricultural law such as support for crop rotation, less intensive use of grasslands or the encouragement of organic farming. However, Paul Jungels raises the question whether it would be more beneficial for bees to achieve a moderate pesticide reduction in the 96% conventional farms with regard to the slow growth of organic farming, which is currently contributing to only 4%.

The main enemy of honeybees is the Varroa mite, a parasite of the adult bee, as well as larvae and nymphs. To counter its proliferation, Luxembourg beekeepers work closely with LIST researchers.

One ongoing project directly related to this issue is “Effects of agricultural structures and apicultural techniques on honey bee health in Luxembourg” (BeeFirst). Funded by the Administration des Services techniques de l'Agriculture (ASTA), BeeFirst studies the effects of beekeeping management  and agriculture on bee health. LIST researcher Michaël Eickermann who is specialised in Environmental Sensing and Modelling, explains that the availability of nutrients, especially pollen, is often very limited after the flowering period of rapeseed. The colonies of bees, malnourished, can no longer store enough food in autumn and have difficulties to survive the following winter. This leaves them also more prone to pests like varroa or viral infections.

In parallel, the related research project “Warning and advisory platform for the main pests and diseases in the major crops in Luxembourg” (Sentinelle) monitors the evolution of plant diseases during field experiments. LIST project manager Marco Beyer and his team worked on the development of predictive models to anticipate epidemics and parasite invasions, which ultimately limits the application of pesticides to regions and times when they are really needed. This has the dual advantage of reducing the use of pesticides harmful to beekeeping and not harming the agricultural economy.

The research thus contributes to the preservation of bees and the environment, which the new agricultural law supports. It also contains several important elements for bees such as the preservation of landscape features, wildflower preservation programs and biodiversity.

Discover the video

In this framework, Marco Beyer and Michaël Eickermann are featured in the video published by the Ministry of Agriculture, Viticulture and Consumer Protection on the agriculture portal in March 2018. Echoing the Luxembourg agrarian law, the video provides information on beekeeping in Luxembourg and in particular on the research work carried out at LIST. See also Paul Jungels’ opinion on the topic.

Video: Loi agraire 2016 Abeilles from Ministère de l'Agriculture on Vimeo.

> For any further information on this topic, contact Marco Beyer or Michael Eickermann via email.

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