Investigating ways to improve native pollinator floral resources by comparing multipurpose cover crops of Phacelia, buckwheat, and a commercial bee forage mix

2014 Annual Report for FNE13-781

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2013: $5,983.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
John Hayden
The Farm Between

Investigating ways to improve native pollinator floral resources by comparing multipurpose cover crops of Phacelia, buckwheat, and a commercial bee forage mix


In the Northeast, fruit crops and many vegetable crops depend on insect pollinators for optimal fruit set and yield. The honeybee and native pollinator population declines that we are experiencing have the potential to significantly reduce fruit and vegetable crop yields. Cover crops are traditionally used to build soil organic matter, prevent erosion, suppress weeds, and scavenge nitrogen. Another category that should be added to this multipurpose list is that of pollinator and beneficial insect floral resource.

Objectives/Performance Targets

In the second year of our grant our objectives were to focus on outreach and to collect final data and analyze all data from our previous years plots. We also established cover crop plantings as demonstration plots and continued our observations of the bee forage perennial mix plots.


In support of our on-farm outreach we planted demonstraton plots of buckwheat, phacelia, Ernst bee forage, yellow rocket, borage, mustard, summer alfalfa and chickling vetch. We also had seperate plantings of buckwheat and phacelia cover crops as part of our farm operation.

For outreach, we conducted two field days on our farm where we shared our data and visited our SARE plots. On June 30 in partnership with  Vermont Land Trust 20 people attended our workshop on how to create pollinator habitat for small scale farms and gardens. On July 29th in coordination with UVM extension we held a SARE Field Day farm and plot tour focusing on creating on farm habitat for pollinators. A mix of approximately 25 Extension personnel, farmers, researchers and students met at The Farm Between and visited our research plots and other pollinator habitat demonstrations. This workshop was video taped and we hope to have the edited copy ready with our final report.

We also presented some of our first year data at the 2014 NOFA Winter Conference (60 people), and Taste of Vermont Festival in Stowe (12 people).

Preliminary analysis of data. Final analysis will be included in Final Report.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

We learned how to grow Phacelia, along with its potential as a cover crop and pollinator habitat with detailed results to be presented in the final report.

Over 100 farmers, gardeners, extension personnel, and students were made aware of the potential benefits of cover crops as pollinator habitat and were introduced to Phacelia as a cover crop. The final report due in February will be posted on our website and will continue to educate people about cover crops and pollinators.

As a result of our NOFA workshop, we were asked to conduct a full day intensive on Pollinator Habitat Enhancement at the 2015 NOFA Winter Workshop.


Dr. Heather Darby

[email protected]
University of Vermont Extension
278 South Main Street, Suite 2
Saint Albans, VT 05478
Office Phone: 8025246501