Producers Use Conservation to Protect Pollinator Habitat, Boost Crop Production
By Troy Munsch, USDA NRCS State Conservationist, and David Schemm, USDA FSA State Executive Director, in Kansas
The next time snacking on almonds, add blueberries to a smoothie or eat pumpkin pie. Farmers, ranchers and private forestland owners work hard to create and maintain habitats for pollinators.
Pollinators, such as honeybees, bumblebees, butterflies, birds, bats, flies and many others, play a critical role in crop production. Without pollinators, some crops would suffer.
During the week of June 22-28, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will celebrate these iconic and crucial pollinators during National Pollinator Week. This year’s theme is “Pollinators, Plants, People and Planet.”
Thirteen years ago, the U.S. Senate unanimously designated the third week in June as National Pollinator Week to increase awareness on the importance of pollinators and the challenges many of them face, including serious population declines and habitat losses, often due to land use changes and excessive or improper pesticide use. Nearly 200 species of pollinators are considered threatened or extinct.
Pollination occurs when pollen grains are moved between two flowers of the same species, or within a single flower by wind or insects and animals. Successful pollination results in healthy fruit and fertile seeds, allowing the plants to reproduce.
The extensive and critical world of crop pollinators is a $20 billion a year industry. About 75 percent of crop plants are pollinated by billions of animals and insects every year.
Many Federal, State and local government agencies, non-government organizations and universities have launched extensive efforts to protect pollinators, especially honeybees and the Monarch butterfly. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) works closely with farmers, forest landowners and other private landowners to increase pollinator habitat in targeted areas nationwide.
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), through USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), offers financial incentives to agricultural producers and private forest landowners who enhance pollinator habitat by voluntarily implementing conservation practices such as cover crops, wildflower and native plantings in buffers and areas not in production.
Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) also can be used to enhance habitat to protect pollinators. Administered by USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA), CRP is a land conservation program which enrolled landowners remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production and plant species that will improve environmental health and quality.
As owners and stewards of the land, producers manage their natural resources to work to achieve their production goals. They protect the rich and diverse ecology on or near their operations.
When protecting pollinators, we protect the ability to grow food. Thank you to our farmers, ranchers and private forest landowners for who offer a safe haven for pollinators and grow the products for our nation.
Whether you are a large commodity producer, a small and diverse organic producer or even a suburban homeowner, you can have an important role in saving pollinators in Kansas.
You can help protect pollinators by doing the following:
- Plant appropriate vegetation. Use conservation practices and create habitat that sustains and enhance pollinators on the farm, forest or the yard.
- Use pesticides, herbicides and insecticides carefully on and off the farm, ranch and private forests. Keep your operation pollinator friendly.
- Protect flowering plants and potential pollinator nesting sites such as areas of undisturbed ground and native vegetation.
Do your part to help protect pollinators. By taking action to diversify and enhance your operation or property, it ensures that many fruits and vegetables are available and plentiful for future generations for many years to come.
For more information about pollinators and what you can do in Kansas, please contact your local USDA service center.
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