A passion for sustainable supply chains and the desire to do something useful, brought Becky Swinn to Lancaster University.
Now her research project comparing the carbon footprint of British, Dutch and Kenyan cut flowers has won the prize for the Best Collaborative Project at the Lancaster Environment Centre. But, like many others, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do when she finished her first degree. After spending two years doing a series of jobs she got asked to work on a project encouraging people to reduce the amount of food they throw away.
Ahead of British Flowers Week, early sunflowers are harvested for Waitrose, by a father and sons team in the Lincolnshire Fens, near Spalding. Henry and Charles Robinson are the sixth generation of flower growers, working on their 147 year old family farm, with their father Richard. The Robinson’s farm has 420 acres of sunflower fields, with the growers picking eight to nine million stems a year. They also grow sweet Williams for the supermarket, which has a long standing commitment to supporting British growers. During the summer months, 60% of the flowers Waitrose sell are sourced from British farms.
New research involving the University of East Anglia has revealed for the first time that flower-rich habitats are key to enhancing the survival of bumblebee families between years.
The results, which come from the largest ever study of its kind on wild bumblebee populations, will help farmers and policy makers manage the countryside more effectively to provide for these vital but declining pollinators.
A new review indicates that flowers may be able to manipulate the laws of physics, by playing with light, using mechanical tricks, and harnessing electrostatic forces to attract pollinators.
The New Phytologist review describes the latest advances in our understanding of how plants use their flowers to ensure reproductive success. Flowers use light to attract pollinators by creating colour using microscopic structures or chemical effects. Using gravity to their advantage, petals cause pollinators to slip or grip when they land on a flower, ensuring that they transfer pollen without taking too much of the sugary nectar reward. Plants may even alter their electrical fields to influence pollinator visits.
“It is surprising to many people that plants use the laws of physics to their advantage in attracting pollinators, but of course it makes sense that evolution has used all the available opportunities to enhance plant fitness,” said Dr. Beverley Glover (University of Cambridge), co-author of the review.