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Bee Pollination and Productivity Growth: The Case of Alfalfa


  • Alan L. Olmstead
  • Donald B. Wooten


The spread of commercial pollination has received little attention in the literature analyzing the growth in U.S. agricultural productivity. Between World War I and 1960, growers of most fruits, nuts, and seeds came to realize that intensive bee pollination was essential to achieve high yields. Alfalfa seed growers were among the last groups to adopt commercial pollination. This article examines the dramatic impact that concentrating bees in alfalfa seed fields had on yields, which resulted in the restructuring of the alfalfa industry (the fourth most valuable commodity grown in the United States) in the 1950s.

Suggested Citation

  • Alan L. Olmstead & Donald B. Wooten, 1987. "Bee Pollination and Productivity Growth: The Case of Alfalfa," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 69(1), pages 56-63.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:ajagec:v:69:y:1987:i:1:p:56-63.

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    Cited by:

    1. Kitti, Mitri & Heikkila, Jaakko & Huhtala, Anni, 2006. "Fair policies for the coffee trade - protecting people or biodiversity?," Discussion Papers 11858, MTT Agrifood Research Finland.
    2. Vesa Kanniainen & Tuula Lehtonen & Ilkka Mellin, 2013. "Honeybee Economics - Implications for Ecology Policy," CESifo Working Paper Series 4204, CESifo Group Munich.
    3. Rucker, Randal R. & Thurman, Walter N. & Burgett, Michael, 2001. "An Empirical Analysis Of Honeybee Pollination Markets," 2001 Annual meeting, August 5-8, Chicago, IL 20547, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
    4. Muth, Mary K & Rucker, Randal R & Thurman, Walter N & Chuang, Ching-Ta, 2003. "The Fable of the Bees Revisited: Causes and Consequences of the U.S. Honey Program," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 46(2), pages 479-516, October.
    5. Gallai, Nicola & Salles, Jean-Michel & Settele, Josef & Vaissière, Bernard E., 2009. "Economic valuation of the vulnerability of world agriculture confronted with pollinator decline," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(3), pages 810-821, January.

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