This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Will Bats Instead of Pesticides Help to Sustain Food Production?

The single biggest issue facing the world is whether or not we can feed ourselves. This discussion takes us right back to Malthus, and forward to the various ways by which we have so far managed to keep food production in line with population growth. Part of the problem moving forward, however, is that the use of pesticides to increase production comes at high--and almost certainly unsustainable--environmental costs, not to mention the threat to the health of humans and other animals. I discuss this in some depth in Chapter 11 and have talked about it repeatedly over the years, including this one four years ago.

So, I was naturally taken by a story on Agweb.com a few days ago extolling the virtues of bats as natural pesticides. The focus of the story is on saving farmers money, but there is no question that this could help save the environment.
Bats are a precious, but unheralded friend of farmers, providing consistent crop protection. Take away the colonies of pest killers and insect control costs would explode across farmland. And just how much do bats save agriculture in pesticide use? Globally, the tally may reach a numbing $53 billion per year, according to estimates from the University of Pretoria, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), University of Tennessee, and Boston University.
Bats are a precious, but unheralded friend of farmers, providing consistent crop protection. Take away the colonies of pest killers and insect control costs would explode across farmland. And just how much do bats save agriculture in pesticide use? Globally, the tally may reach a numbing $53 billion per year, according to estimates from the University of Pretoria, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), University of Tennessee, and Boston University.

Cryan coauthored a seminal 2011 paper, Economic Importance of Bats in Agriculture, suggesting the loss of bats would cost U.S. agriculture at least $3.7 billion per year. “We’re typically scared of the dark, but bats shouldn’t be a part of that association. They’re such a beneficial and important part of the environment and farmland protection.”
There is a threat here, however, in that a disease called "white nose syndrome" is attacking bat populations. This is a fungus that spreads among bats in caves and poses a real threat to the survival of bats. We have to save the bats, so that they can help to save our crops without artificial pesticides.

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