INDIANAPOLIS — Seeds have been planted throughout Indiana and the land is slowly turning green as this year’s crops break free of the surface and begin growing.
The farmers play a key role in this process by making sure their soil is healthy, their crops have enough water and the right nutrients are applied at the right time. But this week, during National Pollinator Week, we celebrate the bees, butterflies, moths, beetles and other pollinators that have their own important part to play in helping the crops grow before the fall harvest.
According to the Pollinator Partnership, 1/3 of all food and beverages produced in the United States are the direct result of pollinators. U.S. pollinators combined, help to produce $20 billion worth of products on an annual basis.
Many of the pollinators provide dual benefits. Watching fireflies twinkle through the fields at dusk is a rite of passage for many growing up, but these famous insects are important for more than just their light shows. As adults, they serve as pollinators feeding on nectar and pollen. Before they reach that stage, though, their larvae feast on slugs in your gardens and fields, helping to control pests. Other pollinators, such as soldier beetles and flower flies, which are frequently confused for small bees, control pests as larvae and then become pollinators as adults.
The habitat many of the native insects and birds that serve as pollinators need to survive is disappearing though. The loss of habitat, combined with disease, parasites and environmental contaminants, are all working against them and causing quick drops in pollinator populations.
Headlines and articles can be found about the decreasing monarch butterfly and bee populations, but the same issues plaguing them are impacting all the pollinators needed to grow food and fiber and keep America’s agriculture industry thriving.
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) along with our farmers, landowners and partners throughout the country and here in Indiana are working to address these natural resource concerns . NRCS can provide technical and financial assistance to help with the development of pollinator habitat on your land. These types of planting help the environment as a whole, but also have direct impacts to your land by attracting more pollinators. Planting hedgerows at the edge of fields, using cover crops in-between cash crop seasons and turning stream buffers into an oasis of pollinator plants can have lasting impacts on your farm and the health of entire ecosystem.
So, as we celebrate National Pollinator Week June 20-26 this year, take a few minutes to research the positive impact pollinators have on your operation and then reach out to your local USDA service center by visiting https://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app to see what resources are available to help you help the land.
— Jerry Raynor, Indiana NRCS State Conservationist
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