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Tips for establishing pollinator habitats on farms

July 1, 2016

With last week being National Pollinator Week, bees have been particularly top-of-mind for those of us in the ag industry. For me, pollinators are top-of-mind for another reason: my family recently planted an Operation Pollinator plot on our farm near Marshall, Minn.

My family made the decision to establish a pollinator habitat for several reasons: bringing renewed purpose and vitality to previously unused land, introducing more color and beauty to the farmscape and, at the most basic level, attracting and providing food for bees and other pollinators that are so instrumental in helping various plants produce. Other wildlife also can benefit from the seeds that are dropped, feeding on the insects that are drawn to these areas.

Working alongside colleagues who support Syngenta’s Operation Pollinator initiative helped solidify the decision. Operation Pollinator promotes adopting practical, cost-effective conservation practices, including planting region-specific seed mixtures, to help meet the needs of pollinators.

Growers who may be interested in converting a portion of their land to pollinator habitats may find it helpful to evaluate the following attributes when deciding on a location for a plot. A few important considerations are outlined below.

  • Borders, hedgerows, grassy areas and buffer strips—land that won’t be disturbed by farming operations. It’s important to let neighbors and those with access to the land know where the habitat is located so it isn’t inadvertently mowed or sprayed.
  • Unused or marginal land—areas where input costs exceed production value.
  • Zero-to-low maintenance—areas with little weed pressure and where no-till practices can be implemented, as herbicides shouldn’t be applied and tillage should be avoided to accommodate ground-nesting pollinators.
  • Zero-to-little insecticide use—it’s critically important to ensure the plot isn’t near crops that will be treated with insecticides—other than targeted or timely sprays that can be applied safely.

It’s important to note that growers who establish or maintain pollinator habitats may be eligible for assistance or incentives from government conservation programs. Since requirements vary by state and county, growers should check with the appropriate state or local office of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) or the Farm Service Agency (FSA) for information on these programs. Additionally, with careful site planning, a pollinator habitat can help reduce soil erosion, protect water resources and contribute to biodiversity.


A pollinator at work on the author’s farm. At first glance, it may look like a bee, but it’s actually a fly mimicking a bee, while fulfilling the role of a pollinator.

For more information on Operation Pollinator and how you can become involved, please visit www.OperationPollinator-US.com or speak with a local Syngenta sales representative.

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Photos are either the property of Syngenta or used under agreement.

Contributed by Marc Hennen, corn/sorghum seedcare product lead, Syngenta