On-Farm Pollinator Habitat

Project Overview

FW12-068
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2012: $25,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Western
State: Arizona
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Gary Nabhan
Almuniya de los Zopilotes orchard

Commodities

  • Fruits: melons, apples, apricots, berries (blueberries), berries (brambles), cherries, figs, grapes, olives, peaches, pears, plums, quinces, berries (strawberries), citrus, general tree fruits
  • Nuts: almonds, pecans, pistachios
  • Vegetables: beans, garlic, greens (leafy), onions, cucurbits, sweet corn, tomatoes
  • Additional Plants: herbs, native plants
  • Animals: bees

Practices

  • Crop Production: windbreaks
  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, mentoring, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, workshop, youth education
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, agritourism
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement, hedgerows, wildlife, hedges - woody
  • Production Systems: permaculture
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, community services, sustainability measures

    Summary:

    The on-farm habitat project in Southeastern Arizona had three dimensions:

    1) collaborative implementation and subsequent monitoring of on-farm hedgerows and gardens to attract pollinators, which occurred at more than eight sites in three Arizona counties;

    2) training and technical/educational outreach to farmers, gardeners, ranchers, orchardists,ecological restorationists and agricultural/environmental educators; including training workshops, field days, books, handouts and other publications; and

    3) establishing baselines and initiating ecological and sociological/economic evaluations to determine project success.

    The project surpassed expectations in terms of the number of pollinator gardens or on-farm hedgerows planted; the number of attendees at training workshops and field days; the number of regional and national conferences where our results were reported and reported; and the amount of ecological, agricultural and rural sociological data obtained about on-farm pollinators and their value to food security and society at large.

    We also certified a number of participating farms as Certified Bee-Friendly with Partners for Sustainable Pollination so that they might add value to their products through marketing them in this manner.

    Introduction

    Although significant honeybee declines have occurred in southern Arizona, as in the rest of the United States and the world, the borderlands region between southeastern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico and west Texas remains among he most diverse in the Americas in terms of native wild pollinator diversity. The premise o fthis project was that plantings of native plants on-farm and in adjacent wild habitats in working landscapes could enhance and stabilize, if not diversify, pollinator populations sufficient to ensure crop seed fertilization and yield stability for food security. To do so, we evaluated a wild range of both native wild and commonly cultivated plants adapted to our region that were reputed to attract pollinators in abundance over long seasons; we also paid attention to planting designs most conducive to attracting and maintaining invertebrate and vertebrate pollinators in our area. According to recent scientific reviews, not all attempts at attracting pollinators to anthropogenic habitats like farmscapes have been successful. And those which have had results typically increase the presence of widely common pollinators already present in the background landscape, but have little effect on increasing the abundance of visitation times of rare pollinators. As such, we felt it important to work with ecologists, such as Dr. Ron Pulliam of Borderlands Restoration – formerly with the USGS Biological Survey and Institute of Ecology at the University of Georgia, to compare our hedgerows with native plants in wild habitat transects nearby to gain a sense of the differences in their performances. While monitoring the ecological benefits of the pollinator plantings was important, we also invested time in sociological monitoring of public perceptions of pollinators and their ecosystem services, to evaluate farmers’ willingness to participate and the public’s willingness to pay to protect and sustain pollinator services.

    Project objectives:

    1. Design, select plants for and implement (through vegetative propagation and outplanting, seeding, water harvesting or irrigation installation and fencing protection) three to four on-farm pollinator-attracting hedgerows. Our target was exceeded, see outcomes.

    2. Monitor survival of plantings, flowering times and relative value of each species in attracting or keeping pollinators in habitat. Ongoing, but data collection exceeded initial proposal.

    3.Train farmers, ranchers, orchardists, as well as restorationists, beekeepers, conservationists and educators, in pollinator hedgerow design and implementation through workshops, field days,training events, publications and conference. Level of attendance and degree of participation exceeded expectations.

    4. Publish and disseminate results at conferences so these local case studies will be useful to others beyond the area of this project. Regional and national interest in our work was far exceeded.

    5. Establish baselines for monitoring and evaluating long-term success, in agricultural, ecological and rural sociological terms. Baseline establishment and monitoring intensity were exceeded.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.