Almond Update: Proactively Working to Protect Growers with Pollinator Habitat

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Almond growers have made tremendous strides in providing additional pollinator habitat in their orchards. With certain native bee species and monarch butterflies being considered for “endangered” classification, it could create challenges for growers. Chief Scientific Officer for the Almond Board of California (ABC), Josette Lewis said they have been part of the effort to demonstrate the value that growers are providing to pollinator species.  ABC has been collaborating with the Almond Alliance of California, other agricultural organizations, as well as some conservation groups in negotiating an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to proactively protect growers.

pollinator habitat

“The way those agreements work is we have to show that there’s a net benefit to the pollinators. Growers have done good things in terms of adding flowers and habitat for monarch butterflies,” said Lewis. “In exchange for doing those good things, in this agreement, you’re then protected if you accidentally harm one.”

Growers have incorporated various pollinator practices in providing forage, flower resources, and habitats on their farms. Research has found that adding floral strips to a farm benefits native bees by protecting them from pesticide exposure. Studies also indicate that accidental harm to pollinators is minimal compared to the overall benefits of pollinator-friendly practices. With the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency increasing its review of crop protection products’ potential negative impacts on endangered species, it could create heightened scrutiny on existing and new products, with possible usage restrictions.

“We are also discussing what we can do to demonstrate that we are also putting in the right kind of protections on the way that we use crop protection products trying to demonstrate that we can use those safely and still have a net benefit to [pollinators],” Lewis noted. “We’re working hard to make sure that we can protect those growers should either native bees here in the state of California or monarch butterflies be listed as endangered species.”

You can hear more from Lewis on the latest episode of The Almond Journey podcast. Management guides for supporting pollinator habitat and cover cropping are also available online from ABC.

Listen to the segment below.

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West