Grain Bins


4 Management practices for protecting South Dakota’s pollinator species

Posted on June 23, 2021
Pollinator blog image v1

It’s that time of the year again. The weather is heating up and more and more birds and insects, or bugs, as some people not-so-affectionately call them, are starting to take to the air. However, not all of these creatures are bad or harmful to crops. Many are actually beneficial to our strong agriculture economy in the state.

Since 2007, the third week of June has been designated by Congress as National Pollinator Week and has since become an international celebration of bees, butterflies, bats, birds and beetles. And, although corn isn’t directly pollinated by any of these pollinator species, it’s important to integrate farming practices to protect all pollinator species because they are critical to our food supply and other abundant crops across the state.

As we celebrate national pollinator week this week, here are four best management practices to help protect our native habitat and species to ensure a safe and secure food supply for many generations to come.

Tip #1: follow label instructions

Chemical pesticides and fertilizers are all important in helping farmers to protect their crops from pests and diseases while getting the highest yields possible for the growing season. However, it is critically important, not only to your safety but the safety of others around you, to follow all label instructions each time pesticides and chemical fertilizers are used.

Many pesticides have label restrictions that are legally binding with advisory statements created specifically to keep pollinators safe. There also may be a Bee Hazard icon as part of the label indicating that the product may cause harm to pollinators in the area. Always be sure to read the entire label before applying pesticides. Even if this hazard icon isn’t included on the label, it still may be part of the instructions and warning statements.

Tip #2: avoid pesticide drift

Avoiding the drifting of chemicals and pesticides not only helps your farm use product efficiently, but it also helps protect pollinators that may be near your field. Make sure to check weather conditions when you plan on spraying fields, paying close attention to wind speed and direction, as well as any forecasted rainfall.

The Honeybee Health Coalition, in conjunction with National Corn Growers Association, recommends these steps to help avoid drift in your fields:

  • Choose sprayer nozzles that fit the recommendations or requirements.

  • Use the proper pressure level on a well-maintained and frequently calibrated sprayer.

  • Reduce pressure and increase droplet size when necessary.

  • Use an appropriate boom height and ground speed.

  • Shut your sprayer off when near water sources and making turns at the end of the field.

  • Make use of field buffers, especially when hives and pollinator forage are located near the field being sprayed.

  • Follow all instructions carefully on the label before beginning to spray.

Tip #3: delay application until pollinators finish daily foraging

Many pollinators are most active during the middle of the day, especially in the summertime. Consider delaying any spraying or applications until the early evenings, around 6 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Depending on what pesticides, fertilizers or chemicals you may be spraying, some have time-of-day restrictions to help prevent the product from drifting due to temperature inversions. If you are unsure of how your product will react to certain conditions, contact an expert to help you develop the best management practices that will not only give you the results you’re looking for but protect pollinators and their habitats around your farm.

Tip #4: communication

One of the most important tips farmers across South Dakota should keep in mind when planning out fieldwork and spraying applications is the importance of constant communication with others around you.

Establishing a good relationship with beekeepers within your local area is not only neighborly but also allows for healthy conversation about farming practices. Bees aren’t as important to corn as they are to other crops, however, having a close relationship can keep open lines of communication when it comes to different stages of the growing process such as any pesticide applications and when crops begin to bloom.

For more tips and information, check out this guide on pollinator protection in field corn.

More on pollinators

Many national and local organizations are equipped with the tools and knowledge to help you and your fellow farmers develop your own best management practices following local laws and restrictions. Be sure to check out all the resources available from your local extension professionals, as well as a wealth of resources from the Honeybee Health Coalition and Farmers for Monarchs.

If you haven’t already, make sure to tune in to our latest episode of Farming in the 605. Our host, Mike Pearson, caught up with Dr. Steven Bradbury and Nicole Shimp from Iowa State University’s entomology department to talk about pollinators and why they are so important to agriculture in South Dakota and across the midwest.

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