Pollinators, both wild and managed, are essential to the successful production of fruits and vegetables in New York State and across the country. We are happy to announce that New York is one of the first 10 states to officially adopt a Pollinator Protection Plan focused on developing diverse strategies for conserving NYS pollinator populations. While much of the plan is directed at state agencies, there are many actions that address grower practices and management of orchard habitats. Here we highlight some of the recommendations set forth in the New York State Pollinator Protection Plan that are relevant to apple growers.

As an orchard owner or manager, you may be wondering

  • What are the pollinator conservation practices that I can implement in order to conserve wild and managed pollinators at my orchard?
  • Is there funding to help me meet these new recommended best management practices?
  • What are some of the research priorities identified in the pollinator protection plan?

To answer these questions let’s look at the relevant Best Management Practice recommendations, potential landowner funding, research goals, and outreach and education resources for growers and landowners.

Best Management Practices

  • Apply Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
  • Use registered pesticides according to the label.
  • Reduce non-target species exposure to pesticides by mowing weeds before applying insecticides.
  • Avoid pesticides with cautions on the label that read “toxic to bees”
  • Avoid tank mixing insecticides with fungicides.
  • Protect natural water sources from spray and cover or remove artificial water sources during application.
  • Communicate spray schedule with all parties, especially beekeepers so that they are aware of impending applications (38-48 hrs prior to application).  The FieldWatch.com mapping and notification system can facilitate communication among crop producers, beekeepers and pesticide applicators.
  • Avoid drift & reduce non-target species exposure to pesticides:
    • Spray only at times when there are the least number of pollinators on the flowers, usually dusk or dawn depending on the crop.
    • Avoid spraying on windy days and use granular formulations, soil treatments or equipment that confines the spray to the intended target.
  • Improve or Increase pollinator habitat: Set aside or create natural habitat to provide safe sites for native bees and honey bees.
    • Plant native plants for bee forage.
    • Plant native green strips for pollinator forage, selecting flowering plants with three seasons of bloom and without seed treatment. See Xerces Planting Guides: Great Lakes Region, or Mid-Atlantic Region.
    • When creating habitat, try to include at least 15 species with 3 flowering species in each bloom period, as well as grasses, shrubs and dead wood that provide nesting habitat.
    • State agencies will be increasing pollinator habitat in Rights-of-way. Some of these ROW’s may be near your orchards.

Funding

For landowners like you, New York State Agriculture and Markets will communicate to the federal government the need to increase the rate of funding for creating and setting aside pollinator habitat under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to make it a viable option for farmers.

Research goals

The need for baseline data on many species of native pollinators, such as the data we are collecting as part of the Northeast Pollinator Partnership, is essential to understanding how to conserve their populations. This research will serve as the foundation for developing and implementing future conservation practices and determine the effectiveness of the BMPs proposed by the plan.

The plan sets aside Environmental Protection Funds ($500,000) aimed to:

  • Continue research on how pesticides and pathogens interact to influence bumblebee and mason bee health across habitats, cropping systems and land management styles.
  • Gather baseline data on the status and distribution of native bee species in NY’s natural and agricultural lands and continue to clarify their role in the pollination of commercial crops, especially apple.

Outreach & Education

To increase awareness about the native, wild bee populations of NY and the problems facing them, the Pollinator Protection Plan tasks DEC, NYSTA, NYSDOT, OPRHP, and Cornell University & Cornell Cooperative Extension to:

  • Enhance their outreach and education materials, including high quality exhibits, presentations and public service announcements.
  • Create high quality exhibits for growers and the greater public.
  • Educate both the industry and the public on the use of IPM in regard to protecting native bees and honey bees
  • The Pesticide & Crop Advisor Training and Certification Programs must incorporate pollinator-specific pesticide management information into education modules, including knowledge of wild bee biology and the importance of wild bees for agricultural pollination.
  • Work with lawn and garden industries to ensure proper labeling and pesticide use.

How does the NEPP fit in?

We believe that the Northeast Pollinator Partnership is a program that clearly addresses a number of the research and extension priorities identified by the NYS Pollinator Protection Plan. First, the NEPP is gathering data on short-term and long-term fluctuations in pollinator abundance across NY state. Second, the NEPP provides data for assessing the effectiveness of BMPs for pollinator conservation. Finally, the NEPP includes an outreach and public education program specifically focused on raising awareness of the importance of wild pollinators for orchard pollination. We are confident that the NEPP is well-aligned with the objectives of the NYS Pollinator Protection Plan and we look forward to working with growers to develop the best strategies for pollinator management.

This NYS Protection Plan is a living document, subject to periodic review and will be updated to incorporate new findings for improving pollinator health as they are acquired.