21st December 2015
Growers boost habitat with help from Operation Pollinator
In its bid to boost habitats for pollinating insects, 2015 can be considered a successful year for the Operation Pollinator initiative. Led by Syngenta with support from Kings and the Campaign for the Farmed Environment (CFE), the project has proven popular with both wildlife and growers.
Hundreds of hectares of new habitat have been created with the Bees ‘n’ Seeds mix and the Annual Wildflower mix, which Kings developed specifically to attract and benefit pollinating insects and farmland birds. Results to date have been fantastic. They include the spotting of one of the UK’s most important crop pollinating bee species, the Andrenanitida, on a farm in Lincolnshire this summer. In the first recorded sighting in the county for over a century, this solitary bee species visited an Operation Pollinator habitat area several times.
Including 250ha of the Bees ‘n’ Seeds mix and 213ha of Annual Wildflower mix, a total of 580ha of pollinator-friendly Kings seed has been sold in the UK this year. Based on the calculation that 3 hectares of land dedicated to wildlife will have a positive impact across 100 hectares, this has the ability to enhance biodiversity across over 19,000ha.
Syngenta’s environmental manager, Belinda Bailey, explains, “Farmers have the power to create environments for pollinators to flourish by providing a range of foraging habitats with diverse, rich nectar and pollen nutrition alongside suitable areas for nesting. Operation Pollinator’s mixes help growers make a positive contribution to pollinators and support the recovery of bee populations. The initiative has been well received, with growers successfully creating valuable habitat in key locations around their farms.”
Introduced last year, the Operation Pollinator Annual Wildflower mix contains cornfield annuals, crimson clover, red clover and phacelia. It was designed to provide a prolonged flowering period and sustained supply of food, bridging the hungry gap in food availability for pollinating insects.
The one year Bees ‘n’ Seeds mix, containing phacelia, mustard, brown mustard, fodder radish, Gold of Pleasure, sunflower, kale rape and buckwheat, was launched this spring. It provides a wealth of valuable pollen and nectar through the late summer, as well as an abundance of seed for wild birds through the winter months, with a range of seed sizes to make it attractive to as many birds as possible.
Operation Pollinator seed, provided by Kings, is not only available at a reduced cost; it comes with essential agronomic support too.
“The mixes have great potential to provide pollen, nectar and seed to pollinators and farmland birds across several months, so it’s important to look after them to ensure they reach that potential,” emphasises Kings manager Richard Barnes. “Managed effectively, a hectare of each mix planted adjacent to each other in a block or strip creates a one stop habitat feature that gives a season-long flowering habitat to boost food resources throughout the year.”
The partnership between Syngenta and Kings has made other environment-friendly endeavours possible too, in one instance planting 100 hectares of a bespoke mix of green cover crops to meet farm needs while also supporting pollinators.
With careful planning, the mixes can even help to meet the latest CAP regulations, further increasing their on-farm benefits.
Operation Pollinator is a key initiative in Syngenta’s Good Growth Plan, which aims to improve sustainability and protect nature as the need to grow more food with fewer resources increases. The Plan consists of six commitments, one of which is to help biodiversity flourish. Support from the Good Growth Plan has been key to offering the seed mixes to growers at a reduced cost.