Horticulture groups urge ‘close collaboration’ on producing pollinator-friendly products

Stakeholders in horticulture -- the field of agriculture immersed in the science, art, production, technology and business of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and ornamental plants – are keenly aware of the declining health of pollinator populations, which are responsible for more than $24 billion in the nation’s economy.

To help meet the challenges outlined in the White House’s newly released National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators, as well as by activities of the U.S. Department of the Interior and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, several industry groups are reaching out to the private sector.

Specifically, AmericanHort, the Society of American Florists, the American Floral Endowment, and the Horticultural Research Institute applaud the national strategy’s focus on improved habitat and forage. Because many components of the new strategy target large-scale habitat restoration and federal lands, the groups say that horticulture also has a major role to play.

“This is especially true in the context of the managed residential, commercial, and municipal landscapes of urbanized and urbanizing areas of the nation,” the groups said in their emailed statement to Crop Protection News.

“In these areas, the best way to support honey bees and other pollinators is to plant healthy and site-appropriate pollinator-friendly plants,” the groups said. “Professional growers of tree, plants, and flowers provide the very thing pollinators need to thrive: diverse and ample sources of forage.”

Consequently, “as demand increases for pollinator-friendly seeds and plants, we strongly urge close collaboration with the private sector to meet growing demand,” said Craig Regelbrugge, senior vice president of industry advocacy and research at AmericanHort. “Expanded government competition with the private sector is not the answer.”

The White House's national strategy on pollinators has three overarching goals: to reduce honey bee colony losses to economically sustainable levels; increase monarch butterfly numbers to protect the annual migration; and restore or enhance 7 million acres of land for pollinators through combined public and private action.

The groups said they “recognize that public-private partnerships will be needed to address the myriad questions that must be addressed through ongoing research” and said their “members stand ready to work collaboratively to advance the goals of the national strategy.”

In fact, Regelbrugge said the new plan’s overarching goals dovetail well with the focus of the ongoing Horticultural Industry Bee and Pollinator Stewardship Program. Under this initiative, the groups have directly funded several priority research projects and collaborated on others to provide scientifically sound guidance for professional horticulturists.

“We are developing a grower stewardship program based on best practices for protecting pollinators while managing pests,” Regelbrugge said.

Additionally, the groups are establishing partnerships with other agricultural, conservation, restoration, beekeeper and honey producer groups to advance the goals of improved pollinator habitat and forage, he added.