January 2013 – Food Crops Are Not About Us

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Rita's Monthly Gardening Tips,  January 1, 2013

ritaIn a human-centric world it is easy to believe that we are responsible for the growth of food crops and that these plants grow for our benefit. In reality, we don’t factor in to the purpose of plants.

In all living organisms the survival of the species is always the highest goal. In order for one third of all food crops that humans eat to grow, there is a relationship played out between flowers and pollinators. Flowers and pollinators have co-evolved to have a mutually beneficial relationship. The pollinators receive food from the flowers and the flowers receive assistance with reproduction from the pollinators. Our place in the scheme of things is to nurture and protect this relationship. In exchange, we receive healthier food and a healthier environment.  

For example bees fertilize food crops by transferring pollen from the male part of one flower to the female part of another flower hence giving “birth” to the seed development or fruit of that plant species. This is called cross-pollination. The major benefit of cross-pollination is genetic diversity; plants are thereby allowed to develop and adapt in a manner that allows them to survive.

Many plants require cross-pollination in order to set fruit and produce more seeds that will, one day, increase their numbers. Even meat and dairy products that we eat are dependent on pollinators as bees pollinate the alfalfa grass that many animals eat.

Happy gardening!

Check back next month for the February Gardening Tip!