Potato grower transforms land into haven for pollinators

Farm Forum

GREENSBORO, N.C., USA, June 29, 2015 –The biggest potato grower in the U.S. has planted the largest Operation Pollinator establishment in the country.

R.D. Offutt Company, founded in 1964, has grown to include farming operations that produce more than 60,000 acres of potatoes annually. Its Minnesota farm group recently planted 600 acres with wildflower seeds, selected specifically to attract a variety of pollinators, including monarch butterflies and honey bees. Once grown, these wildflowers will provide nutritious forage, boost pollinator populations and increase biodiversity.

Offutt’s Operation Pollinator plots are “pivotal,” established in the corners of its potato fields where pivot irrigation systems don’t reach. “It was a natural fit and just made sense to turn buffer cropland into havens for pollinators,” said Vince Restucci, director of Procurement and Business Technology for R.D. Offutt. “These habitats will not only help bees and other pollinators thrive, they’ll also provide a protective environment for wildlife.”

The size of the R.D. Offutt project is extraordinary, said Caydee Savinelli, pollinator and IPM stewardship lead for Syngenta. “Frankly, even small areas less than an acre can make a difference. If more areas like these were used for Operation Pollinator plots, there would be additional forage and habitat for honey bees, native bees and other pollinators.”

Operation Pollinator is a research-based program, developed by Syngenta more than 12 years ago. It uses regional wildflowers to create essential habitats and restore pollinators on commercial farmland and a variety of other landscapes, such as golf courses. Operation Pollinator provides expertise and resources, ensuring pollinators thrive while sustaining, promoting and beautifying properties. Syngenta gets support from the nonprofit conservation organization Pheasants Forever and flower seed producer Applewood Seed Company for the wildflower seeds.

“Operation Pollinator is a perfect illustration of how agriculture and biodiversity can coexist,” said Savinelli. In addition to helping pollinators, it benefits the environment, reducing soil erosion and helping protect valuable water resources.

Loss of habitat and poor nutrition are critical factors that affect pollinator health. The White House’s National Pollinator Health Strategy report, released in May, largely focuses efforts on increasing pollinator populations and improving pollinator habitat.

Managing habitats for bees and other pollinators contributes to Syngenta’s The Good Growth Plan, launched in 2013. The company has made a public commitment to enhance biodiversity on more than 12 million acres of farmland around the world by 2020.