(Reuters) — The U.S. government will fund more than $450,000 in research projects to reduce the use of pesticides that may harm honeybees.
A total of $459,264 will be divided among Louisiana State University, Penn State University and the University of Vermont to develop practices that reduce the use of potentially harmful pesticides, the Environmental Protection Agency said.
Bee populations have been dying over the past few years at a rate the U.S. government says is unsustainable. Honeybees pollinate plants that produce about a quarter of the food consumed by Americans.
Some scientists, consumer groups and beekeepers say the devastating rate of bee deaths is the result of the growing use of pesticides designed to boost yields of staple crops such as corn.
However, the companies that make the chemicals argue that the bees are being killed by other factors, such as mites.
The Louisiana State University project is focused on minimizing the impact of insecticides used for mosquito control.
The University of Vermont project focuses on reducing pesticide use and improving pest control while increasing crop yields on 75 acres of hops in the Northeast. The project’s goal is to reduce herbicide and fungicide applications by 50 percent while decreasing downy mildew, a plant disease.
The Pennsylvania State University project is exploring the benefits of growing crops without relying on neonicotinoid pesticide seed treatments, which are a chief suspect in honeybee deaths.