Pollinator Power

Syngenta and Delta F.A.R.M. team up to create sites to foster pollinator health in the Mississippi Delta.
A bumblebee feeds on the nectar of a chaste tree flower.
A bumblebee feeds on the nectar of a chaste tree flower.
There's something reassuring about bees buzzing and butterflies floating above a colorful patch of wildflowers growing in an agricultural landscape. That's because a diverse habitat with a healthy population of pollinators helps support agriculture. Enhancing biodiversity is one of six key commitments of The Good Growth Plan from Syngenta, aimed at sustainably increasing global farmland productivity.

Less than a year since announcing The Good Growth Plan, Syngenta has joined with Delta F.A.R.M., an association dedicated to conserving and enhancing northwestern Mississippi's wildlife and natural resources, to create habitats in which bees, butterflies and other pollinators flourish alongside traditional agriculture. Participating in a global Syngenta program known as "Operation Pollinator," Syngenta and Delta F.A.R.M. will establish seven Operation Pollinator sites in northwestern Mississippi. The sites will become the country's first commercial farmland enhanced for pollinators by the program. Syngenta and Delta F.A.R.M. plan to expand their efforts to more farms over the next two years.

Prior to this first commercial endeavor, Operation Pollinator was a research-focused effort in the U.S., with cooperation between Syngenta and universities in key pollination-dependent states, such as California, Michigan and Florida, explains Jeff Peters, digital farming lead at Syngenta. Syngenta and Delta F.A.R.M. plan to apply knowledge gained from this research, plus a decade of Operation Pollinator research and commercial implementation in Europe, to the project in Mississippi. In the U.K. alone, Operation Pollinator efforts have contributed up to a 15-fold increase in pollinators, Peters says.

The Delta F.A.R.M. partnership is a good fit. "Syngenta already has a strong working relationship with growers participating in Operation Pollinator," says Reagan DeSpain, AgriEdge® manager. AgriEdge Excelsior® program specialists and growers will use the Land.db software's mapping program to locate the best sites for pollinator plots, where land is marginally productive for crops but well-suited to pollinator habitat. Syngenta also will provide guidance on cost-effective program establishment and maintenance.

Maintaining pollinator sites is not very different from managing farmland, says Trey Cooke, executive director of Delta F.A.R.M. Growers may need to disc and apply herbicides and burndown to keep pollinator forage, like calliopsis, partridge pea and milkweed, thriving. Syngenta has enlisted experts at the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Applewood Seed Company to recommend species and supply seed to optimize pollinator habitat.

In The Good Growth Plan, Syngenta, in partnership with like-minded growers and organizations, has promised to enhance biodiversity on more than 12 million acres globally by 2020. The collaboration with Delta F.A.R.M. is just one example of how Syngenta is dedicated to this worthwhile commitment.