As part of its ongoing commitment to honey bee health, Bayer CropScience pledged $100,000 to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) to be used for the development of roadside pollinator plantings this spring. The project will provide approximately 46 new acres of bee-attractant vegetation alongside North Carolina’s roads and highways, such as wildflower beds that promote honey bee population development and support crop pollination.
“This investment is a down payment on the sustainable health of pollinators in North Carolina and a model for how public-private partnerships, like that between Bayer and NCDOT, can benefit the environment and state,” said Jim Blome, president and CEO of Bayer CropScience LP. “Bayer is dedicated to the establishment of new habitat for honey bees that will allow them to flourish, as they continue to play a critical role in creating sustainable agriculture.”
Bayer’s partnership with the NCDOT is the most recent in a series of collaborations that Bayer is forging as part of its recently launched Feed a Bee campaign (http://FeedABee.com) that has a goal of growing 50 million flowers and providing additional forage acreage for bees in 2015. Bees help to pollinate one of every three bites of food that we eat, and they need to eat too. Reduced bee habitat has decreased bees’ food options, at a time when a growing world population is putting increased pressure on agriculture (and bees!) to produce. Feed a Bee collaborations will help ensure bees have access to the diverse pollen and nectar sources they need, especially during times when the fruit, nut and vegetable crops that they help to pollinate are not in bloom.
Some key Feed a Bee collaborations include:
- Project Apis m. – Working to establish up to 3,000 acres of bee forage in California and Washington.
- National Wildlife Turkey Federation – Supporting pollinator conservation efforts, including co-labeling of native seed mixes.
- McCarty Family Farm – Working with this Kansas dairy operation, in conjunction with Project Apis m. and Pheasants Forever, to plant pollinator-attractant cover crops.
- Conservation Technology Information Center – Establishing pollinator habitat in the Midwest/Great Plains.
- Seeds for Bees: Fresno Fence Row Project – Partnering with Project Apis m. to evaluate seed mixes to plant in almond orchards.
- Golf courses – Partnering with select golf courses to create and promote pollinator habitats.
NCDOT already plants more than 1,500 acres of wildflowers annually across North Carolina and has been transitioning the state’s roadsides to incorporate a native planting zone that provides suitable habitat for many pollinator species. On April 1, NCDOT is celebrating 30 years of its Wildflower Program.
“Bayer’s partnership will go a long way to continuing to bolster the aesthetic appeal of North Carolina’s highways and expanding forage for pollinators,” said Don Lee, unit head of the NCDOT’s Roadside Environmental division. “The wildflower beds and native habitat along our roadsides set North Carolina apart, and this investment will help us increase sustainability and improve the environment for our honey bees in the process.”
As part of the project, NCDOT will plant hybrid sunflower and hybrid canola seed along the roadsides in each of the state’s 14 transportation divisions. Varieties will be chosen that allow for control of undesirable weeds and obtain maximum bloom for pollinators. In areas of the state that are east of Interstate 77, drivers can expect to see hybrid sunflower plantings beginning in early summer, followed by a second crop in bloom in the fall. In areas of the state to the west of I-77, drivers can expect to see hybrid sunflowers blooming along roadsides in mid- to late-summer, and due to climatic differences in that region, a crop of canola planted in the fall.
Research scientists from Bayer CropScience will monitor the North Carolina roadside plantings to collect pollen and to determine the diversity of pollinator species that forage in those locations. Bayer’s collaboration with the North Carolina Department of Transportation is a part of its commitment to protect and improve pollinator health.