Pollination is the transfer of pollen grains from the male part of a plant (the anther) to the female part of the plant (the stigma). This allows for a plant to produce seeds, which in turn grow into seedlings. While this is very similar to animal reproduction in many ways, most plants require some assistance to transfer the pollen from one part to the other.
For non-flowering plants, a strong breeze is often enough. Wind pollination allows grasses and trees to thrive across the world. A number of crops rely on wind pollination as well, including wheat, corn, rye, rice, and barley. These plants are designed so that their pollen is easily picked up by a gust of wind and carried across the air.
For 75% of the world’s flowering plants and 35% of our food crops, however, wind pollination isn’t enough.
These plants require the assistance of pollinators such as bees, birds, and butterflies to successfully thrive and flourish. As they flower, these plants naturally develop petals, special colors, distinct odors, and sweet nectar designed to attract various pollinators to them. The pollinators feed on the nectar of the flower, picking up pollen in the process. This pollen is then spread as they fly from plant to plant.
Most fruits, vegetables, nuts, herbs, livestock forage, and oil crops need insect and other animal pollination to thrive. Without the active and abundant presence of pollinators, the pollination process is severely crippled, resulting in poor yields and crop shortages.
Unfortunately, many of the world’s pollinators are suffering.
We Have a Pollinator Problem
For a long time, the agricultural world has relied on honeybees to handle the heavy lifting of pollination. Currently, they’re responsible for around 80% of crop pollination. In the past 60 years, however, the honeybee population has decreased by about 60% due to Colony Collapse Disorder.
At this rate, the honeybee could be extinct by 2035.
The good news is, there are plenty of other pollinator species out there, some of which cover greater distances and pollinate plants that honeybees otherwise ignore. The bad news is many of these are suffering from population loss as well. Certain species of bumblebees have lost 96% of their population. The monarch butterfly is on the edge of extinction.
But there is still hope.
Unlike the honeybee, which isn’t actually native to the US, it is believed that most of our pollinators can be saved through the restoration of habitat and the establishment of vital plants such as milkweed. Additionally, an emphasis on pollinator diversity can protect us from the massive loss of honeybees. We’ve recently discovered that species such as moths have a lot untapped potential as pollinators.
Through the Conservation Reserve Program, farmers and landowners can receive market-based rental payments from the government in exchange for removing land from active crop production and establishing native vegetation. This provides the perfect opportunity to establish pollinator habitat without having to take a hit on your profits. Even better, the increased pollinator presence can help increase the health of your surrounding crops.
In order to maximize effectiveness and pollinator diversity, however, you need to be strategic with the pollinator seed mix you choose. That’s where we can help.
FDCE offers full-service CRP solutions that take care of the entire establishment process. This includes creating and buying CRP seed mixes, planting, herbicide application, documentation, and submitting final reports to FSA for cost-share reimbursement. Thanks to the cost-share incentives of CRP, our services practically pay for themselves.
Don’t wait and see which way the wind blows, contact FDCE today to get started on pollinator establishment through CRP.