Ontario’s grain farmers recently announced that they want to see one million acres of self-sustaining pollinator habitat identified and preserved by 2018. The million-acre proclamation is contained in the Ontario Pollinator Health Blueprint, drawn up by an eight-member task force of grain farmers, seed dealers and beekeepers, with input from more than 900 farmers.
They say a million acres of repurposed farmland, as well as private land and public land for pollinator-friendly habitat, would mean continuous blooms throughout the growing season could be available to bees and other pollinators. Mark Brock, Chair of Grain Farmers of Ontario, foresees a registry being created in which acreage and habitat could be recorded and monitored track new habitat and programs. But habitat is just one pillar of the plan. Other pillars in the plan include pesticide exposure; disease and parasites; communications between beekeepers and farmers; and verification, measurement and collection standards for insects. A final pillar will help determine farm pest thresholds and provide a benchmark for determining the health and disease status of Ontario pollinators.
This million-acre exercise isn’t totally falling on the shoulders of farmers, and shouldn’t. Farmers are leading it, but all parties must co-operate and be committed to meet and maintain the one-million-acre target. Monitoring, research, benchmarks, registries — they’re all part of what’s needed to help sort out fact from fiction, and reduce the hyperbole over pollinators. It’s a complicated huge issue, and farmers are facing it head on.