We chose to propose the poultry pollinator project due to several different reasons. Delmarva is known for its poultry industry and within the last few years new poultry houses are popping up all over the countryside. This is great for the farmer’s cash flow, but many neighbors that have moved into agricultral areas are not liking the additional expansion. Poultry farms produce poultry for human consumption, and they also produce manure, odor and dust. Around every poultry house are a few acres of grass that has to be mowed at least once a week in the summertime. Most poultry houses are near crop land acres that produce either grains or vegetables. Vegetable production requires bee hives to pollinate the crops. If we could put to use the land around poultry houses to help provide additional forage and nectar sources for native and honey bees that would be a win win for all. Farmers would have less grass to mow, fewer bee hives to rent, plots would be attractive to look at and hopefully the public would realize that poultry houses are not detremental to the health and well being of all that live near them.
This is especially important to our farm because we are a century farm that has been in the same family for over 5 generations. We live on a main highway that takes traffic right by our farm. When our forefathers began this farming operation Rt 14 was dirt and my husbands grandfather and great grandfather would grade the dirt road with a team of mules. Now that the population is growing in our area our farm is under pressure for developement. It is important to us to continue farming on the same land. The addition of 2 more poultry houses has added to our cash flow but wasn’t popular with all the neighbors. We do want people to understand that we wish to be good stewards of the land, water and air. We are doing all we can do to help people “see” this. A nice pollinator plot, blooming with native plants and flowers that helps the native bees have additional forage and nectar sources just made sense. If it helps cut down on the dust and odor from the poultry houses that it just one more way we are being a good neighbor.
We would like to test a new practice, installing a dual function, mixed vegetative buffer adjacent to one of our poultry houses. This new buffer design would provide the odor and dust reduction function of established vegetative environmental buffers, and add habitat and pollen and nectar resources for honey and native bees.
We will determine whether installing this buffer will be cost-effective, provide habitat for bees, and be perceived by farmers and the public as good environmental stewardship.
Objective 1: Measure the economic viability of installing a dual function, mixed vegetative buffer around our poultry house by accounting for the cost of installation and maintenance, and comparing that to the cost of maintaining our existing grassy buffer system.
Objective 2: Determine if this buffer provides forage resources for honey and native bees and other pollinators by conducting bi-weekly counts of flower visitation in the Pollinator Plot. These will be compared to similar counts in the Control Plot.
Objective 3: Document the reaction of poultry farmers and the public to the pollinator buffer, and determine how this impacts their view of poultry houses and their perception of environmental
In late March of 2017 we worked the ground around a stormwater pond that is adjacent to our poultry houses. In April of 2017 the pollinator plot was planted on one end with plugs, seed and shrubs of various native plants that attract native bees and honey bees. A plot of clover was also planted along the eastern edge of the storm water pond in late March/ early April. We also planted a grouping of sunflowers on one side of the plot to help provide an additional source of nectar and habitat for our potential vistors. For the next 8-12 weeks we irrigated the plot to help insure the plugs, seeds and shrubs had the best possible start. Dr. Faith Kuehn meant with the MCA Ag Science teacher, Judith Bruns and conducted a class on how to conduct bee counts to interested MCA students. Bee counts were taken on September 13, 2017 by the group of students. Our plot will need to be mowed in Mid March of 2018. We plan on replanting more sunflowers and possibly spot replanting the clover to fill in where some excessive rain caused the banks of our storm water pond to wash out.
Our control plot is just grass, so we spent approx. 25 minutes weekly mowing that area as needed.
Time to irrigate the planted pollinator plot was approx 3 hours a day. Sprinklers had to be moved to reach the entire area. Conditions in mid to late summer were dry, so irrigation was a must to establish the plot the first year it was planted.
Weeds also had to pulled or sprayed to elimate them from taking the plot over. We used a hand wick in some areas and pulled some of the weeds that were near the sunflowers that had been planted. Control was good. We expect minimal weed pressure the second year.
We prepared the bank of the storm water pond by spraying with round up a few weeks before planting and worked it with a disk. Then the clover patch was planted on the eastern edge of the storm water pond. The next day we received terrental rain which caused some wash outs of the clover seed and the bank of the pond. Hind sight we should have just planted the seed thru the dead grass that we had sprayed.
The results of the pollinator plot have been mostly positive. A few draw backs are that the first year the plot is far from “beautiful”. You have to contend with the rain washing out seed and plugs, weeds springing up where the plants haven’t filled in the spaces yet, and japanese beetles and other insects feasting on certain species of plants. Then when the rain stops you have to make sure you have adequte water supply, hose and sprinklers to water such a large area. In order to do bee counts you have to have plants there for the bees to visit. I can defineatly see where this practice would be adopted around poultry houses, because the area is large and mostly of no use to the poultry farmer. The public perception of wildflowers to attract honey and native bees is a positive. Our plot began to really take shape as the summer came to an end. We will know more as we evaluate the plot into its 2nd year.
Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary
Once pollintator plot was planted with seeds, plugs and shrubs in April 2017 Dr. Faith Kuehn scheduled a time to meet with the local middle school ag science teacher and FFA Advisor and interested students. At this time, Dr. Kuehn explained how to conduct bee counts on the planted pollinator plot. On September 13, 2017 the students visited the farm and conducted the pollinator count. This spring and summer of 2018 additional bee counts will be conducted by the Milford Central Academy FFA students.
Several agricultral publications ran stories on our pollinator plot. The news articles helped spark interest from other poultry growers and the poultry intergrators. For instance, our poultry service man came to the farm and asked us where the pollinator plot was located that he had read about in the newspaper. DPI-Pollinator-Story-6.2017
I do not believe this concept has even been thought of by just the poultry farmer. If the farmer also plants row crops or vegetables than they understand the need of the pollinators (and the cost). Average price is $75 a hive and they recommend one hive per acre. The pollinator plot has been placed in such an area that it is adjacent to fields that grow vegetables that require pollinators to pollinate the crop. Any additional pollinators that we can provide habitat for is a plus!
Poultry houses are often not the most popular structures in the neighborhood. The pollinator plot adds the simple beauty of native flowers, plants and shrubs and helps capture some of the dust/odor that is comes along with raising poultry.