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By Fred Miller U of A System Division of AgricultureSept. 12, 2017
(459 words)(Download this story in MS Word here.)
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Fruit and vegetable farms, gardens and other agricultural sectors
rely on pollinators to ensure abundant production, but wild pollinator populations
are in decline, said Dirk Philipp, associate professor of animal science for the University
of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
“The original prairies that covered much of the U.S., including parts of Arkansas,
were species-rich,” Philipp said. Those species include many animals — bees, flies,
butterflies, moths, beetles and other insects, as well as some birds, lizards and
mammals — that move pollen in and among plants.
Those pollinators helped propogate abundant diversity of wild and cultivated plant
But farm fields and pastures today contain only limited food and forage plants. Typically,
those plants do not provide good habitat for pollinator species, Philipp said. Most
of the perennial grasses and herbaceous flowering plants that make good habitat for
pollinators would be considered weeds in a pasture.
Pastures don’t rely heavily on pollinators, Philipp said, but they can make ideal
places to locate plots of pollinator-friendly plants. Such habitats can encourage
biodiversity that offers benefits to the environment, wildlife, and neighboring gardens
and farms that may rely on pollinators for abundant production.
Pastures make good places for pollinator plots because they are generally low-input
and pesticide use is limited, Philipp said. Although many pollinator-friendly plants
are undesirable in pastures, many areas around the farm may be suitable.
Philipp suggests that edges of fields, fallow or unproductive areas, wet lands and
stream banks — including intermittent stream banks — and unused areas around farm
buildings could make good sites for pollinator plots.
Deliberately planting habitat grasses and flowers for pollinators can provide other
benefits, Philipp said. Such plants can suppress weed growth and halt spreading into
pastures from peripheral areas.
He said pollinator plots can be selected to complement existing habitats, such as
ditches, fencerows and levees that offer nesting and foraging sites for pollinators.
“Leaving all or some of these areas alone can provide refuge for pollinators,” Philipp
said. “Hedgerows and longer sections or patches of pollinator habitat will provide
corridors for pollinator travel.”
Philipp also said some forage crops, such as clovers and alfalfa, could offer pollinator
habitat or feeding grounds, though they normally are grazed or harvested before flowering.
He suggests that small areas of some of these forages might be set aside and allowed
Habitat and feeding grounds should not be farther apart than half a mile, Philipp
said. “Ideally, only a few hundred yards should be between feeding and nesting sites
for smaller native bee species,” he said.
Planting and maintaining a multitude of smaller pollinator plots around the farm helps
keep those areas within reach of the insects.
Philipp also said pollinator habitats of wildflowers can help beautify farms and make
landscapes more attractive.
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen
agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption
of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative
Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work
within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension
and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex,
gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital
or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and
is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
# # #
Media Contact: Mary HightowerDir. of Communication ServicesU of A System Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service(501) email@example.com