Biodiversity, Food and Farming for a Healthy Planet

How do farmers grow food around the world?

Did you know?
  • A hive of bees flies over 55,000 miles to bring you one pound of honey? A honeybee can fly 15 miles per hour (24 kilometers per hour)?
  • There are 914 different breeds of sheep in the world. Over 85 are found in Great Britain.

Growing crops without pollinators is hard, if not impossible, even with natural resources, energy, tools and money. Pollinators fertilize flowering crops by transferring pollen from one flower to another. Insects, birds, small mammals and even the wind and water can pollinate flowers. The most common pollinator is the honeybee; it helps coffee flowers produce coffee beans in Columbia, mango flowers produce mangoes in India, passion fruit flowers produce passion fruits in Brazil, and watermelon flowers produce watermelons in China. And don’t forget that honeybees also produce honey!

Have you ever wondered how farmers can grow healthy crops on the same piece of land, year after year, without using up all the nutrients in the soil? Nutrient cycling is an important ecosystem service that allows nutrients to be used by several organisms and later returned to the soil to begin a new cycle. In South Africa, farmers bring their sheep to large pastures for grazing. The grasses and flowers in the pastures take up nutrients found in the soil through their roots. The different species of grasses and plants take up different nutrients and transform them into vitamins and minerals. When a sheep eats plants, the nutrients are transferred into its body and used for growth. Some of the nutrients will not be absorbed by the animal and will pass through its digestive system. Over time, worms, bacteria and other microorganisms will break down the nutrients in the sheep's poop or excrements providing fertilizers or manure and returning the nutrients to the soil. The nutrients are now available for grasses and flowers, and a new cycle can begin.