Request > Pollinator conservation measures

What do we currently know about the impacts of pesticide and fertiliser use in farmland on the effectiveness of adjacent pollinator conservation measures such as flower strips and hedgerows, and what additional research is needed?

Requester: POLLINIS



Type of request: Knowledge Synthesis
There are two major problems facing pollinators: pesticides and lack of essential resources (habitat and food). It is important to ensure that agricultural infrastructure is beneficial for pollinators, rather than harmful or useless. This request aims to understand better how to plant agricultural infrastructure, which can help pollinators in the best and more sustainable way possible.

Reference: Request CfR.3/2018/1

Expert Working Group
  • Veerle Mommaerts, Bayer (chair)
  • Adam Vanbergen, Institut national de la recherche agronomique (INRA) (Chair)
  • Daniele Alberoni, University of Bologna
  • Anne Alix, CortevaAgrisciences
  • Anke Dietzsch, Julius Kuehn-Institute (JKI)
  • Monica Garcia, European Commission
  • André Krahner, Julius Kühn-Institute (JKI)
  • Stefan Kroder, ADAMA
  • Sara Leonhardt, Technical University of Munich
  • Jeffery Pettis, Pettis and Assoc LLC
  • Noa Simon Delso, CARI – Beekeeping Center for Research and Information
  • Casper van der Kooi, University of Groningen
  • Vasileios Vasileiadis, Syngenta Crop Protection AG
  • Sara Villa, University of Milano Bicocca
  • Penelope Whitehorn, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
  • Thomas Wood, Université de Mons
  • Benjamin Woodcock, Center For Ecology & Hydrology

Experts who contributed to discussions prior to the workshop:

  •  Raine Nigel, University of Guelph
  • Ana Sançana, LOUSÃMEL – Beekeepers Portuguese Cooperative

Additionally, Nibedita Mukherjee from the University of Exeter/University of Cambridge (UK) joined this group to support the knowledge synthesis process as a research assistant.

Contact points
  • KCB Focal Point: Lynn Dick and Flore Jeanmart (Deputy)
  • EMB Contact Point: Juliette Young and Karla E. Locher
Final outputs

Final report (28.04.2020)

Policy brief (28.04.2020)

Methods protocol  (02.10.2019)

Document of Work (DOW) (04.07.2019)

Podcast episode “Pollinator conservation measures” on Anchor

Cross-cutting key research needs were identified by the EWG and are suggested to be considered by research policy at EU and national level:

  • Research is needed to understand better how the Sustainable Use Directive (Directive 2009/128/EC) is implemented nationally. Studies would need to explore how best practices recommendations (nozzle technology, unsprayed buffer zones) on pesticide and fertiliser use are implemented by farmers. Besides, collecting experience from farmers in different countries on the practical aspects of implementing conservation measures through questionnaires would be recommended.
  • Some studies are available on drift and exposure routes, but further research is needed on the impact of new technologies, particularly new nozzle types (e.g. anti-drift nozzles, one side sprayers for inward spraying) on the efficacy of conservation measures. Also, research should further assess and quantify the gain in safety from the exposure reduction of the use of drift reduction technology.
  • Research is urgently needed on the link between exposure and impact on pollinator diversity, populations, and health. In particular, research should explore the impact of various types of pesticides (not just neonicotinoids) and the resulting various levels of exposure in different landscapes or habitats on foraging behaviour and reproduction of pollinators.
  • Research is needed on the impact of fertilisers on plant composition in conservation measures to understand the indirect impact on forage resources underpinning pollinator health and biodiversity.
  • Additional research is needed to strengthen the understanding of drift, exposure and impact on woody structures and investigate the role of semi-natural habitats and nest boxes.
  • The addition of diverse and abundant floral resources within agricultural landscapes often helps to increase populations sizes, and increase the local activity and species richness of pollinators(Park et al. 2015, Carvell et al. 2017, Carvell et al. 2006, IFAB & Bayer 2017, Marshall &Moonen 2002, Wratten et al. 2012, Blake et al. 2012, Buhk et al. 2018, Campbell et al. 2017). There is now direct evidence that this can increase bumblebee population sizes by increasing colony survival and reproduction (Carvell et al. 2017).
  • Pollen and nectar from flowers in planted herbaceous field margins (e.g. AES), and potentially from woody semi-natural habitat, can be contaminated by pesticide and fertiliser applications that expose pollinators foraging in those habitats (Long & Krupke, 2016, Wood et al. 2019, Mogren & Lundgren, 2016).
  • The drift of herbicides and fertilisers can alter plant communities’ composition and structure, which may indirectly affect pollinators seeking floral rewards and, in turn, wild plant pollination. (de Jong et al. 2008, Snoo& Poll, 1999, Dupont et al. 2018, Schmitz et al. 2014, Requier et al. 2015, Schmitz et al. 2014b). Some studies have shown that herbicides and fertilisers reduce plant diversity, suppress the formation of flowers and reduce seed set (Schmitz et al. 2014, Schmitz et al. 2014b)
  • Best practices including technologies that minimize drift or establishing buffer strips can mitigate negative effects of pesticides on pollinators in non-crop habitat (the effect is less clear for fertilisers) (de Jong et al. 2008, Snoo& Poll 1999, SETAC 2017, Frampton 2002).

Numerous European level policy actions that may support pollinators’ populations and ensure the sustainable provision of pollination services are now in place. These include measures under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) as well as the “EU Pollinators” Initiative” from the Directorate-General for Environment (DG ENV) of the European Commission.

The “EU Pollinators’ Initiative” sets strategic objectives and presents a set of actions to be taken by the EU and its member states to address pollinators’ threats. One such action is the development of a guidance document on land management practices that benefit pollinators.

This guidance document is aimed at managing authorities, advisory services and farmers. Part of it will cover pollinator conservation measures, such as management of field margins, hedgerows or other non-cropped habitats. However, there remains a need to determine the impact of pesticides and fertilisers in farmland on adjacent pollinator conservation measures to develop guidelines on the most effective pollinator-friendly agro-infrastructure.

The results of this request aim to contribute to the development of these guidelines with best management measures for pollinators from DG ENV, which is likely to be updated before the start of the new CAP 2021-2027.

Links of interest:

1- First Pillar of the CAP: II – Direct Payments to Farmers

2- Second Pillar of the CAP: Rural Development Policy

3- Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, The European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on the EU Pollinators Initiative

  • Date request received: 12/08/2018
  • Call for Knowledge: 21/05/2019
  • Call for Experts: 17/10/2019
  • Date of experts selection: 11/11/2019
  • Date of the online Expert Working Group Kick-off meeting: 09/01/2020
  • Date of the first meeting with the requesters and EKLIPSE KCB and methods experts: 09/01/2019

In August 2018, a request was received by POLLINIS, a European NGO based in France that campaigns for the protection and conservation of pollinators (notable bees). POLLINIS promotes the transition towards alternative agricultural practices and away from the systematic use of pesticides in Europe.

This request’s final aim was to produce an overview of current knowledge and research gaps related to farmland pesticide and fertiliser use impacts on the effectiveness of adjacent pollinator conservation measures.

Scoping phase

The revised research questions were:

  • What are the interactions between conservation actions aimed at pollinators and pesticides?
  • What is the effect of pesticides on conservation actions, and how does this affect pollinators?

A Call for Knowledge (CfK) was carried out in June 2019. It resulted in 10 contributions from experts and the identification of relevant publications. Based on the scoping process and the Call for Knowledge, a Document of Work (DoW) was compiled.

Answering the request

Selection of an Expert Working Group (see above)

An open call for experts was launched in October 2019 to invite relevant actors (including experts and non-experts, NGOs, private sectors, policy, etc.). A group of 19 experts were selected to ensure balance in disciplines, sectors, geographic and gender.

Methods Protocol

The method selected to answer the request was the Join Fact-Finding Approach (JFF), restricted to its first stage on identifying research priorities. This method includes a multi-stakeholder consultation focused on identifying research priorities as a first step, with representatives from all perspectives. An open call for experts was launched in October 2019 to invite relevant actors (including experts and non-experts, NGOs, private sectors, policy, etc.). From a total of 42 applications, 19 experts were selected to constitute the Expert working group (EWG), all featuring a broad range of expertise and EU-wide geographical and gender representation.

A workshop held on the 9th and 10th of January 2020 in Brussels constituted the second stage. In this workshop, the selected actors (EGW) discussed current evidence and available data while seeking to (a) identify knowledge gaps related to the impacts of pollinators, (b) recognise and prioritise critical research needs, and (c)provide potential policy recommendations based on key consensual findings.


On April 28th, 2020, the final report was completed and published.