NCDA&CS working to increase pollinators statewidePollination is crucial to the success of North Carolina’s $78 billion agricultural economy, and to consumers who enjoy the fruits and vegetables from the labor of the bees, birds, butterflies and other animals involved. Up to a third of the food we eat can be directly attributed to the work of these insects and animals.
At a time when habitat loss, disease and environmental changes have contributed to the decline of pollinators, especially bees, the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is working on several fronts to bolster their numbers. Efforts include expanding and protecting habitats on the farm and educating people on ways to protect pollinators.
“I first got interested in this during a trade mission to Europe where I saw farmers growing pollinator habitats. I knew this was something we could do here in North Carolina, too,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “I hope that as we learn more about managing these pollinator habitats and by sharing this information, more farmers will want to designate habitat on their own land and use the techniques to help improve the number of pollinators.”
There will be more outreach efforts in the coming year to explain ways that landowners can join the effort, Troxler said. Three points for growers to consider: recognize native pollinators and pollinator habitats already on the farm, adapt existing farm and land management practices to avoid causing undue harm to pollinators, and provide habitat for native bees on and around the farm.
Several NCDA&CS divisions are actively involved in increasing habitat and supporting pollinators, in cooperation with university researchers and other state and local partners:
The Plant Industry Division inspects honey bees for diseases, and offers educational workshops and consultations for beekeepers.
The Structural Pest Control and Pesticides Division educates consumers and farmers on proper pesticide usage.
The Agronomic Division helps farmers improve management of land to maintain effective habitat areas.
The Research Stations Division is planting pollinator habitats on the state’s 18 research stations using a variety of farm-friendly flowering crops. In cooperation with these efforts, N.C. State University researchers are working on best practices for these habitats.
The N.C. Forest Service has pollinator gardens and wildlife food plots at many state educational forests and are working to find ways to support even more pollinators.
The Division of Soil and Water Conservation helps farmers and landowners incorporate pollinator habitat areas into best managament plans through consultations and cost-share programs.
For more information about pollinators, a list of resources and ways to increase bee habitat on the farm, go to http://www.ncagr.gov/pollinators/.