Warner students scatter seeds for the future

Farm Forum

Friday, May 9, was a magical days for 52 students from Warner. The sky was blue, the wind was soft, and the field had dried down. Third graders from the classes of Mrs. Schopp and Mrs. Ochsner learned why it is important to plant flowers to attract bees, butterflies and other pollinators. Six Warner high school students from Mrs. Merkel’s Environmental Science Class worked with the students to assist the Northern S.D. Pheasants Forever Chapter in planting an area as a pollinator plot.

An acre piece of ground on the S.D. Game, Fish, & Parks Casanova Game Production Area southwest of Aberdeen began its transformation from bare dirt into what will be known as the C.J. Kraemer Memorial Pollinator Plot with the help of the young people. Honeybees, butterflies, and pheasants critically need the wildflowers habitat.

The excitement of the students were evident throughout the afternoon. Forming a line on the west end of the field and walking east, the hands of the students scattered seeds from 35 varieties of native flowers. They planted individual seedling plants, known as plugs as well as making pollinator balls, a muddy mixture of soils and seeds that were dispersed into the plot as well.

Not only did the kids help Pheasants Forever plant the seeds but also they absorbed the why behind their activities. Beekeeper Aaron Kiesz taught the students about honeybees and their importance to the world’s food supply. Students learned the importance of the gear worn by beekeepers, they learned about beehives and they learned the value of plots to honey bees.

Chris Goldade of the S.D. Game, Fish and Parks and Northern SD Pheasants Forever Chapter member showed the students how to identify beneficial plants and quizzed the kids on what they learned. The students excelled in their tasks and rewarded their instructors by bursting into smiles. Native flower seeds and supplies were purchased through a $1,000 grant from the state Pheasants Forever.

“Flowers are a food source for all the pollinators,” Goldade said. “It’s designed so there’s always one or several species flowering throughout the year.”

Declining numbers of the Monarch butterfly emphasize the need for addition milkweed plants, according to PF biologist Emmett Lenihan. Milkweed is a flower critical to the Monarch butterfly life cycle. The students learned the value of the plots to pheasants, especially to chicks when they are newly hatched. Pollinators provide insects critical to pheasants during their first six weeks of life.

“These pollinators provide all sorts of food and protection so they can move through the vegetation,” Lenihan said.

While PF Regional Representative Mike Stephenson made pollinator balls with the students, PF chapter member Dan Nelson showed students how to plant plugs in the field. Throughout the afternoon PF chapter members and students worked to create a plot that can also be used as an educational opportunity. The plot is open to the public and as summer goes along it will flourish with colors only nature can paint. The area is extraordinarily valuable to numerous species of birds and insects.

Plants will start growing and developing within 30 to 45 days, Lenihan said. Goldade said some plants may take two to three years to establish.

“It will definitely help the pheasants this year,” Lenihan said. “The primary value will be next year for honeybees.”

The Casanova Wildlife Area plot, located ½ mile west of 378th Ave on 137th Street southwest of Aberdeen, is a demonstration plot. Pheasants Forever is setting up plots in several states. Ideal sites for pollinator plots are one to four acres that may not be as productive for row crops.

“I think people will be pretty impressed with it as time goes on,” Lenihan said.

Farmers can help, too

In order to encourage farmers to help provide habitat, the honeybee program was authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill, and is administered through the EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program).

Earlier this year, USDA made $3 million available to help agriculture producers in five states (North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan) provide floral forage habitats to benefit pollinating species on working lands. The Honey Bee Pollinator Effort is intended to encourage farmers and ranchers to grow alfalfa, clover and other flowering habitat for bees and other pollinators.The primary goal of this program is to establish and maintain quality honeybee foraging habitat. If funded, landowners can receive incentive payments for establishing and maintaining these acres on their operations. There are several options available to interested landowners through this program. Many practices through this program pay an yearly incentive payment, and allow for annual haying and grazing, while other practices provide higher incentive payment for leaving the established cover through the bloom period.

Anyone interested in learning more about the programs offered to encourage pollinators should contact their local NRCS office.

Integrated pest management

Since pesticide use on all crops may drift onto adjacent habitat, all agricultural producers play an important role in honeybee protection and conservation, not just growers of fruits, berries, seeds, and nuts. Managed honey bees cannot always be moved out of agricultural areas to protect them from pesticide applications.

Integrated Pest Management is a framework that uses least hazardous pest management options only when there is a demonstrated need, and takes special precautions to reduce the hazards of pest management activities to people, other living organisms, and the environment. The strategy is: 1) Reduce conditions that favor pest populations, 2) establish an economic threshold of how much damage can be tolerated before pest control must occur, 3) monitor pest populations, and 4) control pests with the most specific pest control option when the pre-established damage threshold is reached.

Healthy grazing

Grazing maintains grassland habitat; however, to benefit honey bees, grazing needs to be managed in a way that encourages honey bee-friendly forage plants.

The NRCS can help develop a grazing system that maintains and/or increases plant health and livestock forage production while also providing abundant flowers for honey bees.

Apiary maps

To locate state honey bee information and to find an apiary map go to http://tinyurl.com/lzvjkky.