July 2016


VM Views: Making pollinator habitat a priority

By Travis Rogers, market development specialist, Dow AgroSciences and Pat Burch, field scientist, Dow AgroSciences

TravisRogerssmallPatBurchsmallYou’ve likely heard about the decline in worldwide pollinator habitat and the many initiatives taking place around its restoration and preservation. But perhaps you’re wondering why this is considered such a serious and mounting issue.

Pollinators include bees, butterflies, moths, flies, beetles, birds and some mammals like bats. According to a 2015 report from the White House’s Pollinator Health Task Force, pollinators contribute more than $25 billion annually to the U.S. economy, with honeybees alone accounting for $15 billion through their vital role in keeping fruits, nuts and vegetables available for consumption. Those are staggering numbers. Yet, bee, monarch butterfly and other pollinator populations have experienced significant declines over the past decade for various reasons but in part because of a lack of habitat — native forbs to provide pollen and nectar. For example, bee colonies (beehives) have shrunk from around 6 million in the late 1940s to just 2.5 million today. Now you might be wondering how this relates to the Vegetation Management industry.

Reverse the trend using sound vegetation management practices
Even as pollinator habitat is in decline, there are opportunities to reverse that trend. Those in our industry can contribute by managing vegetation in a manner that is both effective in achieving operational goals, while also promoting healthy habitat for pollinators and wildlife.

Rights-of-way such as electric utility, gas and pipeline, and roadsides in particular are perfect candidates for creating or restoring pollinator habitat. Using selective herbicides or selective application techniques to manage vegetation allows plant species desirable to pollinators to thrive in these corridors while at the same time improving the habitat for wildlife species like large and small mammals, game birds and many other wildlife species. Misinformation is everywhere about the role herbicides can play with respect to pollinators. It’s

important to understand many of the commonly used herbicides for rights-of-way management are classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the least toxic category with regard to these species. Since the products do not directly impact pollinators the benefit comes through habitat improvement.

Federal and state agencies across the United States are already dedicating significant resources to this issue and are working with partners and private land owners across the country. In fact, the 2008 and 2014 farm bills made pollinators and habitat improvement a priority and encouraged “the development of habitat for native and managed pollinators; and the use of conservation practices that encourage native and managed pollinators.”

Are your vegetation management practices compatible with pollinator habitat? If not, perhaps only minor changes would make a substantial difference. Dow AgroSciences has accumulated a wealth of information around establishing and maintaining these critical habitats based on sound science and operational experience. We will gladly share what we’ve learned in helping develop a program that fits within the scope of your current vegetation management goals. Contact your local Dow AgroSciences IVM specialist or contact us evistas@dow.com.

We also have some research studies available to review. These include: Integrating Herbicides into Prairie and Grassland Management; Plant and Animal Community Response to Long-Term Vegetation Management Practices on Rights-of-way and Native Forb and Shrub Tolerance to Milestone® Herbicide — all available for download on TechLineNews.com.