North Dakota is home to over half a million honey bee colonies, and is the number 1 honey producing state in the US for the past 30 years. According to the North Dakota Department of Agriculture, in 2017, North Dakota produced 33 million pounds of honey valued at over $65 million. The vast expanse of land, as far as the eye can see, offers a dense and rich clover forage, a favorite of the honey bee. It is therefore no surprise that more beekeepers want to bring their bees to the Peace Garden State each year. In contrast, corn and soybean are gaining popularity in the agricultural landscape of North Dakota, replacing some of the more traditional grain crops of the past. As a result of these two opposing landscape factors, beekeepers in North Dakota report an increase in honey bee colony density and a decrease in forage for the pollinator. Zac Browning of Browning Honey Co. warns that North Dakota is the ‘Last Best Place for Bees’.
“Pollen metabarcoding is a way that we can enable larger questions to be answered, and larger scientific studies to be conducted more cost efficiently.” – Rodney Richardson, PhD Candidate, Ohio State University
David Fenn is the Senior Vice President of Farming at Sun World International. In 2017 Sun World International worked with Project Apis m.’s Seeds for Bees program to plant hedgerows and bee-friendly cover crops and earn Pollinator Partnership’s Bee Friendly Farming certification. Sun World has a deep commitment to sustainability which you can read more about here.
We talked to David to learn more about growing table grapes in California, and how Sun World approaches cover crops and other sustainability practices.
Morgan Carr-Markell's research is giving us a better understanding of honey bee behavior and forage activity which will help us improve the way we manage bee nutrition, conservation, and forage plantings.
During my time managing the Seeds for Bees program I have seen cover crops positively impact our food system in many ways. Working closely with beekeepers and growers has allowed me to witness the benefits to bees and the land first hand. But our goals are not only to have seeds in the ground and good nutrition for bees today. They are also about helping to plant the seeds of sustainable land management and healthy bees for generations to come.