Apply for the 2016 Conservation Stewardship Program by March 31st

IMG_1252_KU_ICPAThe US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced the 2016 application and renewal period for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the nation’s largest conservation program for working lands. The program provides farmers and ranchers with annual payments for implementing specific conservation activities on their land. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) plans to enroll an estimated 10 million acres in the program with the $150 million in funding available for fiscal 2016.

NRCS accepts applications for CSP throughout the year, but farmers and ranchers should submit applications by March 31st to their local USDA service center to ensure they are considered for enrollment in 2016. The initial CSP application consists of a simple form that asks for basic information regarding land ownership, type of production, and contact information.

Producers with existing CSP contracts expiring in 2016 are eligible to receive a five year renewal of their contract if they submit an application by March 31st agreeing to adopt additional conservation activities on their land.

Many of the conservation enhancements covered by CSP’s annual payments have direct benefits for pollinators. Enhancements for pollinator and/or beneficial insect habitat (PLT15) provide incentives for incorporation of pollinator habitat into CSP contracts. Many animal/wildlife enhancements, such as changes to grazing management, prairie restoration for wildlife, and renovation of windbreaks, shelterbelts, or hedgerows can also be designed to include nectar and pollen resources for bees and other pollinators. These local-level restoration projects provide essential support for pollinator populations across the nation. For more information on how to use CSP and other USDA conservation programs to support pollinators on your land, read the NRCS Technical Note, “Using 2014 Farm Bill Programs for Pollinator Conservation.”

Since 2015, NRCS has also been providing specific funding for enhancements to establish monarch habitat. The agency created a special supplement to CSP’s Pollinator and Beneficial Insect Habitat Enhancement Activity that encourages planting milkweed and other plants with high-value nectar for monarchs. This enhancement is available nationwide. Additional NRCS funding for conservation practices to support monarchs is available in ten states along the main US monarch migratory pathway through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP).

Through CSP, USDA has provided more than $4 billion since 2009 in assistance to farmers, ranchers and forest managers to enhance conservation on more than 70 million acres. For more on technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted. For a practical guide to CSP, read the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s recently updated publication, “Farmers’ Guide to the Conservation Stewardship Program.”

Apple pollination relies on diverse wild bee communities

Screenshot_EM_ICPAA new study from Cornell University, co-authored by Project ICP researcher Jason Gibbs (Michigan State University), finds that apple pollination in New York orchards is more related to diversity of wild bee communities than the abundance of honey bees. The authors observed and collected pollinators and measured seed set and pollen limitation in commercial apple orchards in western New York state. Seed set increased and pollen limitation decreased with increasing wild bee species richness, functional group diversity (based on nesting, sociality, and size traits), and abundance, but not with honey bee abundance.

Functional group diversity of wild bees explained more variation in apple seed set than wild bee species richness, with big increases in seed set as the number of functional groups (for example, different nesting groups, such as ground-nesting and stem-nesting bees) at a site increases. “Management of diverse pollinator communities may decrease reliance on managed honey bees for pollination services and enhance crop yields,” the authors write. The authors suggest several ways that apple growers can actively maintain wild bee species richness and functional diversity in their orchards:

  1. Maintain diverse floral resources in and around orchards
  2. Develop strategies for enhancing ground-nesting bee habitat (e.g. tilling small patches of bare ground to 30cm depth)
  3. Install trap nests to encourage nesting by stem-nesting bees
  4. Maintain wood piles and abandoned stone walls as nest sites for cavity-nesting bumble bees

The original article, published in Agriculture, Ecosystems, & Environment, can be found here: http://www.sciencedirect.com.ezproxy.uvm.edu/science/article/pii/S0167880916300020.

Orchard Bee Association Annual Pollinator Symposium and Expo

PAlmond_ICPeople who are interested in bees and the challenges they face can learn more at the 2015 International Orchard Bee Association Meeting and Pollinator Symposium and Expo, held October 1-3. The annual meeting of the Orchard Bee Association (OBA) will be in Hood River, OR on Thursday and Friday, October 1 and 2. The public symposium will be at Portland State University on Saturday, October 3, from 10:00 – 3:00. ICP research partners Derek Artz and Cory Stanley-Stahr are both presenting talks related to their ICP research. Click here for more information on the Symposium and Expo.

Pollination Studies Bear Fruit

A global effort to bolster biodiversity and set up habitats for native pollinators is gaining steam in the United States, with a new wave of projects underway at commercial farms and golf courses throughout the country.

Click here to read more about National Fish and Wildlife Foundation-funded pollination projects.

California Almond Industry Moves to Protect Vital Bee Colonies

The importance of honeybees to California’s almond crop is written across the state’s landscape every February – when an armada of trucks filled with beehives enters the state.

Without the bees to pollinate the trees, there would be no almond crop.

The importance of honeybees is now written across a first-ever set of public guidelines for almond growers and beekeepers, released Thursday by the California Almond Board. The guidelines are meant to safeguard bees, whose winter numbers have plunged.