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Ponder Pollination

By Joel A. Willhoft, Resource Conservationist
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Hays, Kansas

Pollinators such as birds and insects are essential partners of farmers and ranchers. The transfer of pollen between flowers leads to fertilization of seeds and fruit. This important ecological role is not often pondered, but is vital in producing much of our food supply.

Worldwide, roughly 1,000 plants grown for food, beverages, fibers, spices, and medicines need to be pollinated by animals in order to produce the goods on which we depend. Foods and beverages produced with the help of pollinators include: apples, blueberries, chocolate, coffee, melons, peaches, potatoes, pumpkins, vanilla, almonds, and tequila. In the United States, pollination by honeybees, native bees, and other insects produces $40 billion worth of products annually.

There is disturbing evidence that pollinating species have suffered from loss of habitat, chemical misuse, introduced and invasive plant and animal species, diseases, and parasites. Many pollinators are federally “listed species,” meaning that there is significant evidence of their disappearance. The United States has lost over 50 percent of its managed honeybee colonies over the past 10 years.

Land users in Kansas can take a proactive and simple approach to help ensure pollinator species thrive on their land by planting for pollinators. Consider planting native plants, especially those that provide nectar and larval food for pollinators. Install houses for bats and hives for bees. Reduce reliance on pesticides. Folks in town can choose to plant native flower mixes and reduce lush green lawn areas that often have high irrigation, fertilization, and pesticide demands.

We all can reduce detrimental impacts on pollinator species. Buy locally and organically produced foods. Reduce harmful effects of greenhouse gases by walking, cycling, and carpooling. In addition, we can reduce consumption of goods and products by reusing and recycling.

The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) recognizes the importance of pollinator species to agriculture in Kansas. To start planning for pollinators on your land contact your local NRCS office or conservation district located at your local county USDA Service Center (listed in the telephone book under United States Government or on the internet at offices.usda.gov). More information is also available on the Kansas Web site at www.ks.nrcs.usda.gov. Follow us on Twitter @NRCS_Kansas. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. Stop by or give us a call as you ponder pollination on your land.