A program that has proven successful in providing essential habitat for pollinating insects in Europe is being launched in the Mississippi Delta, a joint project of Syngenta and the Delta F.A.R.M. organization.
The significant decline in populations of honeybees and other pollinator insects in Europe and the U.S. has become a major concern for agriculture, which relies on the insects for successful production of many crops.
It’s estimated that more than 80 percent of Europe’s crops are directly dependent on insects for pollination, and in this country the USDA estimates that bee pollination is responsible for more than $15 billion in increased crop value each year, with another $3 billion from native pollinators. About one mouthful in three in our diet directly or indirectly benefits from honeybee pollination, the agency says.
Syngenta’s “Operation Pollinator” is a global biodiversity program that restores native pollinators in a variety of landscapes by creating essential habitats. Under the joint operation, Delta F.A.R.M. (Farmers Advocating Resource Management) has committed to establishing at least five Operation Pollinator plots this year throughout northwest Mississippi, with plans to increase the program to more fields and farms each year through 2016. The Mississippi sites will be the first commercial farmland in the nation to host the plots.
“Our farmers know how vital bees are to agriculture and the environment,” says Patrick Johnson, Jr., chairman of Delta F.A.R.M. and partner in Cypress Brake Planting Company at Tunica. “We look forward to collaborating with Syngenta to protect and maintain these pollinator habitats.”
Under the agreement, Syngenta will support Delta F.A.R.M. with grower training, seed choice, and agronomic support to select local farmers in the region. Delta F.A.R.M. will also assess the effectiveness of the additional foraging habitat and nesting sites on marginal land or non-productive farm areas in an effort to enhance biodiversity, boost native bee numbers, and promote sustainable agricultural practices.
With careful site planning and management, Operation Pollinator can also play a valuable role in reducing soil erosion and helping to protect valuable water resources, as well as creating habitat for small mammals and farmland birds.
“This native pollinator habitat restoration program is a natural fit with Delta F.A.R.M.’s ongoing conservation efforts,” says Jeff Peters, Syngenta digital farming lead. “Our goal with Operation Pollinator is to showcase that agriculture and biodiversity can coexist. We understand that the future of the environment and the livelihood of producers is dependent on sustainable agriculture meeting the challenges that lie ahead.”
Syngenta has promised to enhance biodiversity on more than 12 million acres of farmland around the world by 2020. Operation Pollinator is “a powerful message to create a positive public perception of the farming industry,” the company says.