Study shows pollinators help Texas cotton producers

What is in this article?:

  • Diversity of pollinators improve cotton yield
  • Study conducted in South Texas

A diversity of pollinators, including honey bees but others, such as this butterfly, appear to be important for cotton production, according to a South Texas study.


According to the results of a new study published in the journal Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment today (June 16, 2016 issue), South Texas cotton fields surrounded by natural land cover and an increase in the number of natural pollinators can result in an overall increase in cotton production – by as much as 18 percent.

Shalene Jha, assistant professor of integrative biology at the University of Texas-Austin and senior author of the study, says increasing the diversity of pollinator species around cotton fields—including bees, flies and butterflies—can dramatically increase yields. Using South Texas as a basis for the study, she concludes that annual cotton revenues of the region can be increased by more than $1.1 million.

“Texas produces about 25 percent of the nation’s cotton and South Texas produces about 15 percent of the state’s total. Cotton is the world’s most economically valuable nonfood crop,” Jha reports.

Increasing yields through diversified pollinator populations could prove to be a major boost to South Texas cotton production, and potentially for cotton producers across the state. According to the study, which focused only on South Texas cotton fields, pollinator populations and crop conditions vary widely across Texas. But the pollinator factor could prove beneficial for other areas of the state and beyond.

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