Concerns over declining bee population
Plan calls on farmers to help tackle fall in insects
The agricultural industry in Northern Ireland has been urged to help stop the decline of bees and other pollinating insects.
Pollinators - such as honey bees, bumblebees and hoverflies - have suffered significant declines in recent years.
Experts say they are vital to the survival of many flowering food crops and our native plants.
The economic contribution of pollination by wild bees has been assessed as £1,800 per hectare.
Denis McMahon, the permanent secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, yesterday launched a new plan to encourage pollinator-friendly farming.
The 'Farmland Actions to Help Pollinators Guidelines' was presented at the Balmoral Show yesterday.
Melina Quinn, from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, said: "We are all stakeholders when it comes to the natural world, and have responsibility for its well-being. Farmers are the custodians of our environment. Their livelihood depends on the health of the land, biodiversity and air around them.
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"Our agricultural industry is being asked to work in tandem with nature and, under their stewardship, significant strides can be made in the protection and enhancement of our natural habitats.
"Pollinators such as wild bees and butterflies are a key part of an ecosystem, and an indicator of its overall well-being.
"Across the island of Ireland, one third of our bee species are threatened with extinction.
"This is part of a bigger global problem, and a number of factors are involved. But we must act locally now."
Organisations in Northern Ireland and the Republic are working together as part of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan to address the decline.
Ms Quinn continued: "Everyone, from government departments to local councils, businesses, schools, gardens and transport authorities has a role to play in the Pollinator Plan. We will be taking this message to the Balmoral Show this week.
"This is about informing those in the agricultural industry, as well as encouraging them to be aware of what actions can be taken to benefit pollinating insects."
Pollinators need to be able to feed on a range of different flowers from early spring right through to late autumn.
To achieve this farmers can maintain native flowering hedgerows, allow wildflowers to grow around the farm, provide nesting places for wild bees, minimise artificial fertiliser use and consider sowing clovers and reduce pesticide inputs.
Ms Quinn added: "As is often the case in environmental matters, farmers have a vital role to play. At Balmoral, we'll be able to explain how important that role is."