California is New Haven for Hedgerows: in Full Bloom Now
DAVIS, Calif., May 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — If USDA and the Xerces Society have their way, long rows of native wildflowers, clovers and blooming shrubs could border agricultural fields all across California. Currently the concept is in full bloom at USDA’s Plant Materials Center (PMC) near Lockeford, Calif., where the partners hope to demonstrate to farmers and the public both the beauty and the practical benefits of planting forbs such as California poppies, lupines, baby blue eyes, clovers and other flowering plants on the edges of fields, orchards or vineyards.
“It’s no secret that honey bees have been having a hard time lately,” says Mace Vaughan, Pollinator Program Director for Xerces. “Native bees can work alongside the domesticated honey bees to pollinate the cornucopia of fruits, vegetables and nuts grown in California. Having flowers blooming from February to November will provide food and habitat for native pollinators honey bees alike.”
California leads the Nation in adopting the practice of field-side hedgerows and last year accounted for half of all those developed in the United States. In 2009, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and farmers developed 57 miles of hedgerows – enough to string these colorful “bed and breakfasts for pollinators” from Merced to Fresno.
Margaret Smither-Kopperl, the newly-hired manager of the PMC, is originally from England. While California farmers are leading the adoption curve in the U.S., Smither-Kopperl says that hedgerows have been common in England for hundreds, sometimes thousands of years. While originally serving as a type of fencing, they also host wildlife and pollinators and include berries and medicinal plants. “You can even date the age of the hedges by the number of species they host,” she says.
U.S. farmers in California and elsewhere have been using hedgerows planted with native species for more than a decade now in order to provide habitat for beneficial insects that can help control crop pests. Thomas Moore, state biologist with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, says that incorporating forbs into the hedgerow mix can create dense plantings that can outcompete field-bordering weeds, while supporting pest management and pollination.
NRCS and Xerces, a non-profit looking out for the well being of invertebrates, are working to design mixes of species that they hope will be grown at NRCS Plant Materials Centers across the Nation. “Our hope is to develop easy-to-follow prescriptions of species that farmers and ranchers could adapt for their specific needs,” says Moore.
Several Resource Conservation Districts and other partners throughout the state are working with NRCS and Xerces to demonstrate how hedgerows are beneficial for different crops and locations throughout California. The NRCS can share the cost of building hedgerows for eligible farmers and ranchers. Field offices statewide can provide more information or go to www.ca.nrcs.usda.gov. To view a short YouTube video on California pollinators, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0hyih9TBq8.
SOURCE USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service