Protect pollinator habitat, boost crop production (Keeping the Farm)
(Editor’s note: Genevieve Lister is a state public affairs officer with NRCS-Maryland.)
The next time you snack on almonds, add blueberries to your smoothie or eat pumpkin pie, thank a pollinator and thank farmers and private forestland owners who work hard to create and maintain their habitat.
Pollinators, such as honeybees, bumblebees, butterflies, birds, bats, flies and many others, play a critical role in crop production.
Without pollinators, we wouldn’t have many crops. Unfortunately, many pollinators are facing challenges, 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 USDA works closely with farmers, forest landowners and other private landowners to increase pollinator habitat in targeted areas nationwide. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program, through USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, 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 also can be used to enhance habitat to protect pollinators. Administered by USDA’s Farm Service Agency, CRP is a land conservation program in 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, many Maryland farmers and private forest landowners manage their natural resources to work to achieve their production goals, they are protecting the rich and diverse ecology on or near their operations.
When we protect pollinators, we protect our ability to grow food. We thank our farmers and private forest landowners for who offer a safe haven for pollinators and grow the products we enjoy.
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 Maryland.
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 and private forests. Keep your operation pollinator friendly; and
• 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 beautify your operation or property, you could ensure 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 Maryland, please contact a local USDA service center.