Pollinator Forage Development

Pollinator Forage Development

Pollinator Forage Development

Harell 5

The Challenge

Farmer Heather Harrell and beekeeper Les Crowder of New Mexico recognized the need to develop conservation techniques to preserve the continued presence of honeybees and other pollinator species in both agricultural and wild lands, due to their collapsing populations.  According to Harrell and Crowder, the beekeeping world is experiencing massive losses of pollinators due to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Research existed on the potential causes of the collapse; however, more information was needed on remediation. Organic producers, such Harrell and Crowder, had turned to the idea of building healthy habitats for pollinators in areas that are protected from environmental degradation.

In 2011, Harrell and Crowder had NRCS funding to establish pollination hedges, but they did not have a viable list of plant species to use.

Searching for a Solution

The goal of their Western SARE farmer/rancher project, “Pollinator Forage Development,” was to begin the process of identifying forage species which provide food and habitat for pollinators while serving as windbreaks, livestock forage, and nitrogen-fixing cover crops. They believed that “this will enable beekeepers and interested agricultural landowners with the knowledge to develop their lands in support of these diminishing populations.”

The objectives of this project were:

  • To develop the farm as a pollinator forage species demonstration site, with a wide diversity of plantings that provide a continuous source of nectar and pollen through the active season.
  • To provide education and outreach to students and the general public concerning honeybee and pollinator health and welfare.
  • To publish a book on using organic methods in top-bar beekeeping, which would include a list of plants that are useful in supporting honeybee health and longevity.

A list of forage species would serve as a broad resource for farmers and ranchers who would like to provide habitat for pollinators, as well as organizations like NRCS and the Xerces Society who do their outreach on the development of pollinator "friendly" zones.

What was Learned

With additional funding from the Santa Fe Community Foundation and the McCune Foundation, Harrell and Crowder published a well-received book “Top Bar Beekeeping.” This book has reached thousands of people who find invaluable information on using organic methods and using the right plants to support honeybees and other pollinators.  A DVD was also developed with the same information. They also created a website that lists trees, shrubs, and blooming cover crops that support pollinator health.

Harrell and Crowder state one important impact from the project is that “staff from local agencies who have visited our farm have seen the success of our plantings and been encouraged to spread the word in other agricultural venues. This was part of our original goal, and our land serves as a beautiful inspiration to others from all walks of life.” Farm tours, classes, and lecturing also encouraged land owners to support pollinators through proper plantings.

Post-Project Impacts

Since the completion of their Western SARE-funded project, Harrell and Crowder have continued to reach out to the ag community about the importance of providing habitat for pollinators. They speak every year at the New Mexico Farming conference (100-200 people per year) and have taught a certification program every summer through a series of six on-farm classes.  They continue to have host pollinator walks on their farm one or two times per year. Crowder continues to lecture all over the country at various beekeeping events. Their book continues to have strong sales every year. Harrell states that “the NRCS in our area has used the information from our book to help other farms.”

Want more information? See the related SARE grant(s) FW11-005, Pollinator Forage Development .

Product specs
Format: Websites
Location: West

Sustainable Ag in the Pacific Islands

Download the report to read highlights of funded projects in Guam, Micronesia, the Northern Marianas Islands, and American Samoa, such as combating plant disease in key crops, building direct links between farmers and chefs, and creating integrated vegetable and livestock systems.