(Posted Thu. Feb 4th, 2016)
Defining, developing, expanding and measuring sustainable production practices is at the center of discussions taking place as members of the National Corn Growers Association Production and Stewardship Action Team met in North Carolina this week. The group spent a significant part of its meeting learning more about the critical role of pollinators in agriculture.
The insect population in the U.S. is valued at $16 billion annually, and three-quarters of that is directly attributed to pollination services provided by honeybees. At the same time, the bee population is facing a host of issues, including extreme weather, disease, parasites, inadequate nutrition, reduction in forage areas, pesticide exposure and colony management practices.
“We learned a lot about the importance of honeybees to our industry during our visit to Bayer Crop Science,” said Brent Hostetler, chairman of the action team. “One big takeaway is that communication will be key to progress. If we’re affecting bees through our management practices, we need to know exactly how, so we can be active participants in the solution. And perhaps the most important conversation and partnership should be between farmers and beekeepers.”
To promote stewardship and biodiversity, the following recommendations were made:
- Communicate planting activities to neighboring beekeepers.
- Be aware of wind speed and direction during planting, particularly in areas with flowering crops.
- Consider using a seed lubricant for corn and soybeans to help reduce potential risk to pollinators.
- Ensure planters and seed boxes are cleaned to minimize dust release and ensure seed is planted at the proper depth.
The demand for pollination has never been greater, and this has presented unique challenge,s including commercial beekeepers moving their colonies thousands of miles every season, according to Sarah Myers, a beekeeper at Bayer’s Bee Care Center at Bayer’s North American Headquarters in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. The center is one of two such facilities, with the other located at Bayer’s facility in Monheim, Germany.
Jane DeMarchi, Vice President Government and Regulatory Affairs with the American Seed Trade Association, encouraged farmers to get involved at the state level in discussions to assure a population of healthy pollinators. Every state has been commissioned to produce a Managed Pollinator Protection Plan. DeMarchi stressed the need for farmer involvement in development and implementation plans for them to be successful.
The action team also received updates on river and rail transportation issues, Field to Market activities, livestock initiatives and conservation components of the farm bill.
In addition to Hostetler, team members include Vice Chair Ronnie Mohr of Indiana, Corn Board Liaison Lynn Crisp of Nebraska, Jim Burg, South Dakota, Dennis Friest, Iowa, Morris Heitman, Missouri, Kirby Hettver, Minnesota, Jeff Jarboe, Illinois, Carson Klosterman, North Dakota, Gail Lierer, Ohio, Carl Sousek, Nebraska, Jim Sugarek, Texas, Randy Woodruff, Wisconsin, Gary Hudson, Illinois, Charles Ring, Texas, Theresa Sisung, Michigan Corn Growers Association, NCGA staff in attendance included Director of Marketing Max Starbuck, Director of Public Policy Ethan Mathews, Director of Public Policy and Political Strategy Brooke Appleton and Administrative Assistant Linda Kassoff.