The third dimension of mountain agricultural productivity, pollination, helps to maintain crop productivity and thus makes a great contribution to agricultural economy. In the absence of natural pollinators for a variety of reasons, farmers in Maoxian County of southwestern China employ “human pollinators” to pollinate apple and other fruit crops to secure yields. In 2001, we conducted a study to gain an understanding of the process and significance of hand pollination of apples, which revealed that 100% of the apples in Maoxian were hand pollinated. Because it was a unique approach developed by these Chinese farmers the authors were curious to revisit the site in 2011 to assess the sustainability of human pollination and see whether farmers had invented better alternatives. The findings suggest that, recently, Maoxian farmers have been working toward phasing out apples and replacing them with plums, walnuts, and loquats along with vegetables. These new fruit and vegetable crops are economically and ecologically more appropriate to them, because they do not require pollination by humans and also fetch a better price. However, hand pollination by human pollinators is still practiced with apples to a lesser degree, which indicates that all these farmers have yet to find satisfactory alternatives to this economically unsustainable practice.
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Vol. 32 • No. 2