MEET OUR SCIENTISTS
Christian Maus: Protector of Bees and Biodiversity
A great diversity of insect species plays a role in sustainable agriculture, for instance as pollinators. But which species are important and how can we protect them? Insect researcher Dr. Christian Maus speaks up for pollinator safety of crop protection products.
The hurdles for the registration of new plant protection products in Europe are extremely high, and their development takes many years. This can make it challenging to bring innovative solutions to the market.
Whether it’s strawberries, melons, apples or almonds, about 75 percent of the world’s major crops benefit, at least to some degree, from insect pollination. Insect pollinators contribute around 235 – 577 billion U.S. dollars to the global economy annually – this is up to eight percent of the total crop production. Many people are unaware that their pollination activity is indispensable for the production of much of the food we enjoy. The public may also be unaware that we can optimize the pollination of crops by making sure that pollinators are thriving. There is a range of insects, among them many bee species, important for pollinating our crops. The most relevant of these pollinators is undoubtedly the honey bee. But basically, all insects have fascinated me throughout my life.
Promoting the Dialogue About Bees and Pollinators
Agriculture has already made great advances in terms of increasing productivity and sustainability. Still, the requirements are rising. The world population is growing – but agricultural areas are not. Therefore, the yield per field needs to become bigger. To achieve this, efficient pollination and plant protection are necessary. We need to harness our resources while nursing the ecosystem and preserving species diversity.
What could seem to be contradictory can fit together harmoniously: At Bayer, we are helping farmers to maximize their yields through Integrated Pest Management – which include the use of chemical and biological insecticides. Prior to every registration of a new pesticide, our bee expert teams make sure that properly-applied products do not harm pollinators. To do this, we conduct large-scale laboratory and field studies, partly with academic partners. In the context of this and other cooperative scientific activities, my task is to bring all of the involved stakeholders together. It’s not enough if only scientists know about their studies. Therefore, I often mediate between scientists, politicians, authorities, farmers, beekeepers and media representatives
Mainstream Bee Care
At many international congresses and other events, I present our joint activities towards bee health – and my own opinion. Frequently, the public is most interested in the topic of bee safety of crop protection products. We present study results or new technologies that promote bee health in agriculture. Beyond that, to support greater insect biodiversity, we develop, for instance, flower mixtures with our scientific partners that can be planted by farmers between their fields. These colorful additions to the agricultural landscape provide habitats for a diversity of insects.
As diverse and varied as my work can be, sometimes it can be a bit frustrating. Scientific facts don’t always compete well against emotional statements by critics. I learned to stay calm and not to take allegations and accusations personally. I try to make our expertise and knowledge the central point of my presentations and speeches. But not everybody is willing to communicate like we are. The most famous example of this would be the discussion about neonicotinoid insecticides and their bee safety, which eventually led to their restriction in the EU. Neonicotinoids are, for example, being used as a seed coating for, among others, oilseed rape. Although many studies confirm that neonicotinoids do not cause any harm to bee colonies under realistic field conditions, louder voices gained the upper hand. The resulting restrictions have led to lower oilseed rape yields; the oilseed rape growers have lost almost 900 million euros, and, in some regions, farmers are cultivating less oilseed rape. I hope that my work at the Bee Care Center will help to bring the debate back to a fact-based, scientific level.
Bees for the World
My expert team and I are involved in scientific projects all around the world. Recently, we started a research and stakeholder engagement program in Kenya. There, we’re educating smallholder farmers about the importance of pollinators in agriculture. In other projects, we conduct studies to find out what specific pollinators are relevant in which crops in certain regions. With all these diverse activities I’m dealing with, I never know what the day may bring, and I travel a lot – it’s always exciting. In my leisure time, I relax while hiking or taking long walks with my wife.
CV: Christian Maus
1968: Born in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany
1988: High school diploma in Freiburg
1989-1997: Studies of biology at the Albert Ludwig University, Freiburg, Germany
1997: Biology degree, University of Freiburg
1997: Research stay as visiting scholar at the University of Kansas, USA
2001: PhD thesis at the University of Freiburg; Project title: “The evolution of the genus Aleochara (Coleoptera, Staphylinidae): a synthesis of molecular systematic and morphological approaches”
2000-2002: Head of the Laboratory for Terrestrial Arthropods, Ecotoxicology, Bayer AG, Monheim, Germany
2003-2009: Product Responsible Scientist/Global Lead Scientist, Ecotoxicology, Bayer AG, Monheim, Germany
2010/12-current: Global Lead Scientist and Pollinator Safety Manager, Bayer Bee Care Center, Monheim