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Delmarva Farmer Columnists

 

Pollinator protection (Feb. 9, 2016)

Vegetable Grower

By Gordon C. Johnson, Extension Vegetable and Fruit Specialist, University of Delaware

Pollinators, including honey bees, bumble bees, and many native bees are essential for the production of many of our fruit and vegetable crops.
Cucurbit vegetables such as watermelons, muskmelons and mixed melons, cucumbers, summer squash, winter squash, pumpkins and gourds all require bees to move pollen from male to female flower parts to produce fruits.
Many tree fruits including apples, sweet cherries, pears and plums are self-incompatible or may have certain varieties that are self-incompatible and require bees to move pollen between varieties to produce fruit.
Blueberries require bees for pollination and although strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are self-pollinating, they will produce larger fruit when pollinated by bees.
Bees may also aid in pollination of other self-pollinating fruits and vegetables by enhancing pollen release and distribution thus improving yield.
Bees also forage in most flowering crops for pollen and nectar food sources.
For example, honey bees can be found extensively in lima bean fields in our region when they are in flower and they also visit field crops such as corn and soybeans.
Native pollinators are important to many crops.
For example, in squash and pumpkins the native squash bee provides significant pollination.
There has been a general decline in the population of native pollinators due to reduction in habitat as well other stressors.
Beekeepers with honey bee hives have been facing increased bee losses and reduced bee health leading to colony loss and decreased productivity over the last two decades.
A combination of factors have been associated with colony losses including disease and mite pests of bees; lack of genetic diversity and poor bee nutrition; stress in adult bees caused by transportation and overcrowding; and exposure to pesticides both from use in the hives and from exposure during foraging.
Concern over bee health has been a concern nationally and in 2014, the President issued a memo on “Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators.”
In this memo the Environmental Protection Agency was directed to engage state agencies in developing state pollinator protection plans to specifically protect managed pollinators.
Currently, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia are developing managed pollinator protection plans and are in the process of getting input into those plans from all segments impacted including beekeepers, landowners, growers, and applicators.
Although the focus of these plans is the protection of managed pollinators, it is anticipated that these plans will also serve to protect all pollinators, including native bees.
Delaware’s draft managed pollinator protection plan includes examples of voluntary best management practices for each group mentioned above to consider.
The following are examples of potential BMPs currently listed in the draft plan.
Beekeepers are being encouraged to work with landowners to choose hive locations, be cognizant of neighboring landowners when placing and moving hives, work constructively with applicators when notified of upcoming pesticide applications, notify landowners and applicators when arriving and when moving hives, and ensure hives are easily visible to applicators.
For landowners and growers: work with beekeepers to choose hive locations, communicate with cropland renters about bee issues, communicate with pesticide applicators on hive locations and proper notification to pollinator managers, consider pollinator impacts when working with advisors making pesticide recommendations, and consider putting in plantings specifically for bee forage.
For pesticide applicators: Use Integrated Pest Management, apply pesticides with caution when crops are in flower, follow all pesticide label requirements regarding pollinators, apply pesticides when bees are not active, avoid pesticide drift, and identify and notify beekeepers in the area prior to pesticide applications.
Working together, beekeepers, growers, landowners, and applicators can help to produce plans that protect pollinators while at the same time allowing for necessary production practices to continue on farms.
Only through constructive communication between land managers, growers, applicators and beekeepers can we solve issues related to pollinator health while maintaining crop productivity.
Let Delaware (and Delmarva) beekeepers, growers, landowners and applicators be the ones to drive the conversation and develop sustainable management techniques that will benefit everyone.
In Delaware, the Department of Agriculture is asking for input to their first draft of a plan by March 15.
It can be found at http://dda.delaware.gov/pesticides/pollinatorplan. Send comments by e-mail or mail to Chris Wade, Pesticides Administrator, Delaware Department of Agriculture, 2320 South DuPont Highway, Dover, DE 19901.
Virginia has an Eastern Shore stakeholder listening session at the Virginia Tech Painter AREC on Feb. 24 and information can be fount at this website: http://www.vdacs.virginia.gov/plant-industry-services-pollinator-protection-plan.shtml. Maryland recently held a summit on their plan and information can be found at http://mda.maryland.gov/plants-pests/Pages/pollinator_protection_plan.aspx.

Program offers customers convenience, flexibility (Feb. 9, 2016)

Keeping the Farm

By Carol Hollingsworth, State Public Affairs Specialist, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Maryland

In today’s busy world, it is rare when we can manage our own time, to do things when and where we want to do them.
Using online services, like Amazon.com’s shopping and delivery options, provides us with convenience and superior customer service.
Many of us have initially used online services with some skepticism, but soon they became an accepted and useful part of our everyday life.
Now, you can expect the same options of convenience and efficiency when managing your farm’s business operation. Conservation Client Gateway gives you that choice.
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service introduced Conservation Client Gateway nationwide in May 2015. “What used to require a trip to a USDA Service Center can now be done from a home computer using a new online service, similar to mobile banking services,” said Ramon Ortiz, Conservation Client Gateway Manager and State Planning Specialist at the NRCS Maryland State Office in Annapolis. “NRCS is committed to providing effective, convenient and efficient assistance to the Maryland farmers and producers we work with.”
Farmers and producers working with NRCS have more choices than ever before about “how and when” they want to complete all of the required paperwork related to their agriculture or forest-land operation.
The conservation plan for your operation, program applications and associated documentation are still a requirement, but now you can complete those tasks at your convenience and from your home.
NRCS, and its predecessor agency, the Soil Conservation Service, was founded on the belief that personal, one-on-one direct assistance was the best way to put conservation practices on the ground and provide science-based solutions to natural resource concerns.
And that conservation delivery system, working cooperatively with Soil Conservation Districts and partners, still remains the hallmark of our conservation technical assistance services.
However, not every action requires a personal visit to the USDA Service Center. Some actions could easily be handled via an email or online transfer of information — and save the farmer or producer the time and associated costs spent away from the farm while traveling to and from the office.
Using Conservation Client Gateway, lets you — the farmer or producer — choose when you need to visit a field office or when you can use the online service to handle your information request or required action.
Using Conservation Client Gateway is up to you. It is entirely voluntary whether you chose to conduct business online or travel to a USDA Service Center.
The online program enables NRCS customers to work securely online to:
• Request NRCS technical and financial assistance;
• Review and sign conservation plans and practice schedules;
• Complete and sign an application for conservation programs;
• Review, sign and submit contracts and appendices for conservation programs;
• Document completed practices and request certification of completed practices;
• Request and track payments for conservation programs; and
• Store and retrieve technical and financial files, including documents and photographs.
USDA’s use of online information services is expanding beyond NRCS.
The Farm Service Agency recently announced the availability of FSAfarm+ which links to Conservation Client Gateway and other USDA resources. FSAfarm+ is a web application designed to provide producers access to view their FSA farm information and customer profile. FSAfarm+ allows producers to view, export, and print farm record data, producer information data, and maps from their home computer.
It also permits producers to electronically share their data with other interested parties, including crop insurance agents, from their home or remote location.
The site can be accessed at http://www.fsa.usda.gov/Farmplus. Because of the data that is available, a Level 2 eAuth access is required to use the site.
To obtain the access, visit your local FSA office.
I encourage you to give Conservation Client Gateway a try.
Just a few clicks will allow you to establish your secure profile, request Level 2eAuth access, and begin the process.
Step-by-step instructions on getting started are available at www.nrcs.usda.gov/clientgateway.
Still not convinced to use Conservation Client Gateway? Several farmers across the country, including a Worcester County poultry operator participated in the national pilot project.
Take a few minutes to watch a video where these farmers tell you about the benefits of time-savings and 24/7 information availability that they personally gained from doing business through Conservation Client Gateway.
The video is available at www.md.nrcs.usda.gov.
Remember, conservation assistance is just a click away — at the time and place that is convenient to you – through Conservation Client Gateway.
Whether you choose to use online services or travel to your local NRCS office, our conservation staff is available to assist you.
You can learn more about conservation programs and Conservation Client Gateway at www.md.nrcs.usda.gov.