Photo Credit to Chad Copeland

Be the Change: Plotting for Pollinators

Shared Vision: Be the Change Program

Shared Vision for the Deschutes kicks off its Be the Change program this year. Be the Change brings action to the goals held by the Shared Vision (below)  and helps empower the community through shared projects.

Shared Vision values:

  • A healthy, restored Deschutes River
  • Thriving farms and sustainable agriculture
  • Robust and vibrant communities

This summer Be the Change will start with our Plotting for Pollinators program (P4P), brought to you by North Unit Irrigation District, Coalition for the Deschutes, and the Middle Deschutes Watershed Council. The P4P project works with farmers in Jefferson County to grow native plants on their land for the benefit of bees and people. P4P nurtures both native and domestic bees. Healthy bees help farmers by enhancing crop pollination.

Pollinator Plots within North Unit Irrigation District

Click here for the Application of Interest. Please return either electronically to nuid@northunitid.com, physically to the North Unit Irrigation District (NUID) office, or by fax to (541) 475-3905.

For more details, contact Lisa Windom at the NUID office (541) 475-3625.

  • Planting Season
  • Spring 2020 Planting
  • Fall 2020 Planting
  • Spring 2021 Planting
  • Application Deadline
  • May 15, 2020
  • June 30, 2020
  • August 31, 2020

Why Pollinator Plots?

Commercial honey bees play an essential role in pollinating carrot flowers for hybrid carrot seed production.  However, hybrid carrot flowers do not provide adequate nutrition (enough pollen and nectar) to keep bees at optimal health throughout the pollinating season.  This may result in lower pollination and less than optimal crop yield of seeds.  Currently, scientific studies are being conducted to test the hypothesis that providing supplemental nutrient sources for commercial honey bee colonies can improve bee health and enhance pollination.

Planting supplemental forage is designed to:

  1. Improve carrot seed crop pollination,
  2. Increase the health of commercial honeybees,
  3. Promote native bee populations that can additionally improve crop yield.

Pollinator plant species can also serve as cover crops, enrich the soil, and potentially reduce erosion.

How Does This Apply to My Farm?

NUID, in conjunction with Coalition for the Deschutes and the Middle Deschutes Watershed Council, is interested in finding patrons who would like to improve their commercial and native bees’ health by planting pollinator plots on their property.  This would involve the following:

  1. Identifying irrigated farmland.
  2. Planting this field with selected pollinator species (lacy phacelia and yellow mustard). For optimal results, lacy phacelia should be planted in mid-May (approximately May 15). Yellow mustard should be planted at the end of May (approximately May 29).

Seed costs may be covered by future grant opportunities.

Photo Credit to Chad Copeland

Has Anyone Researched This?

The Central Oregon Agricultural Research and Extension Center (COAREC) and the Honey Bee Lab at Oregon State University are currently conducting research to improve bee health by providing supplemental forage.  Their research to date shows that planting lacy phacelia and yellow mustard seed has potential for providing urgently needed pollen and nectar for honey bees pollinating carrot seed crop.  These plant species augment commercial honeybee nutrition in a positive way. The researchers argue that adequate nutrition will lead to greater brood (larvae) production in the honey bee hives, which will stimulate bees to seek more pollen and nectar thereby increasing pollination of hybrid carrot seed crop. This will be a win-win scenario for both the carrot seed producers and beekeepers.

About How Much Land Would This Take?

Approximately ¼ acre of pollinator plot per 10 acres of commercial crop production may be adequate for providing necessary nutrients for honey bee colonies.

How Does P4P Overlap COAREC Efforts?

The P4P program has designed its pollinator plots to align with on-going research projects managed by COAREC. Conditional to their experimental criteria and operational boundaries, applicants can learn more about how to join their study, which in turn provides added support and resources to the pollinator plot. There is a line on your application to show interest in joining COAREC’s study. If the project joins the COAREC research study, then the plot becomes an OSU project. As such, farmers should be willing to provide OSU researchers with harvest yield results and access to the fields for research purposes.

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