When you picture our great state’s rural areas, you probably see vast fields of crops such as corn, soybeans and wheat, for example. Or maybe you think of our rolling prairies and pastures with grazing cattle. These are both important to our state’s number one economic contributor — agriculture.
However, you may not notice the “fields” of wildflowers and weeds that are “planted” (or left to grow) to benefit the pollinators. These natural pollinator habitats may be miles of ditches alongside rural roads and fence rows, waterways crossing fields or seemingly forgotten spaces along the edges of farmed cropland or pasture.
Our state’s farmers put these “leftover lands” to good use by letting the pollinators have these areas. Numerous cost-sharing programs from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) exist to encourage the establishment and protection of pollinator habitat, such as Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the Environmental Defense Fund, the Honey Bee Health Coalition and BASF’s Living Acres #MonarchChallenge.
Just as farmers may choose to manage some of their land for wildlife such as deer, or for the sake of state bird — the ring-neck pheasant, they also choose actions to preserve spaces for pollinators to work their magic because they respect their contribution to our ecosystem.
To kick off 2021’s Pollinator Week June 21-27, we focus on these tiny flying machines that work wonders across the world by carrying pollen from one plant to another to make them bloom and grow.
From butterflies and bees to birds, bats and even beetles, pollinators transfer the pollen of one plant to another to fertilize the plants so they produce seeds, which allow them to form fruit or reproduce.
According to the U.S. Forest Service and USDA, almost 80% of the 1,400 crop plants grown around the world require pollination by animals. Visits from bees and other pollinators also result in larger, more flavorful fruits and higher crop yields. The remaining 20% of crop plants such as corn, wheat and rice are pollinated by the wind, and a few by water.
More than 150 food crops in the U.S. depend on pollinators, including almost all fruit, nuts, and oilseed crops.
More than half of the world’s diet of fats and oils come from animal-pollinated plants (oil palm, canola, sunflowers, etc.).
The USDA estimated that crops dependent on pollination are worth more than $10 billion per year in the U.S. alone; and over $3 trillion globally.
This year's poster “Pollinators and Agriculture: A Partnership on the Land" by artist Hugo Salais is an artistic depiction of the harmony that can be achieved when agricultural landscapes embrace pollinator-friendly management practices. Order your copy now by clicking the poster image!
In addition to allowing habitats, farmers must also opt for pollinator-friendly pest management practices, spraying crops for pests and weeds while keeping bees from incidental exposure. Pesticide applicators, advisors and crop consultants can learn more about the role and risk of honey bees in production ag.
South Dakota beekeepers may choose to register their hives on a nonprofit website locator called FieldWatch's BeeCheck, which allows applicators to be aware of the apiaries. Collaborating and communicating between parties are essential to ensure good stewardship.
Perhaps a better way is for beekeepers to work directly with farming neighbors to ensure safety for the bee colony. Careful spraying when hives are closed should keep the bees safe from any residue or drift. Pesticide product labels set the standard of care, meaning applicators must follow labeled use instructions. Using voluntary BeeCheck is an added precaution.
Helping protect these pollinators and their habitat is the job of everyone on the planet.
BEES EARN AN A
Out of the nearly 20,000 species of bees, about one-fifth are pollinators, which include honey bees. These are valuable contributors to ag, especially the almond industry. In California, 1.8 million colonies of honey bees pollinate almond orchards.
Many of these bees come right here from South Dakota! We will feature the business of bees in an upcoming blog because it’s about far more than the delicious honey they make.
DYK: Honey bees create $19 billion in added crop value.
MILKING THE MONARCHS
You may know plenty about this easily identifiable and iconic butterfly but are you aware of the one type of plant it needs to survive?
The lowly milkweed, often considered a pest to farmers and gardeners alike, is the only place a monarch will lay its eggs. So without milkweed along their 3,000-mile migration path from Mexico to Canada, we will endanger the monarchs.
South Dakota is home to 177 different species of butterflies. If you live in Sioux Falls or come to visit, don’t miss the Butterfly House and Aquarium! It’s an impressive sanctuary for around 800 butterflies, staffed by a knowledgeable crew who truly care about these beautiful creatures. See our previous blog post for “Learn About Butterflies Day” in March that featured this neat attraction.