This time of year, I look forward to the opportunities to get together with friends, family, and colleagues in the industry. The conference season is underway! I've seen many of you at the California State Beekeepers Association convention and the Almond Conference. And, look for PAm at the American Honey Producers Association Conference and American Beekeeping Federation Conference in January. In many ways attending these annual conferences feels a lot like a homecoming. Old friends and colleagues share funny stories from the past year. We gather for dinner in numbers large enough to dwarf my family’s holiday gathering. It is an opportunity for those of us in the industry to learn about the latest research findings, create plans to address issues, and set goals for the upcoming year.
As manager of the Seeds for Bees program I never tire of talking about forage. The lineup of speakers the California State Beekeepers invited this year gave me plenty to be excited about! I was very pleased to hear a wide range of presentations address nutrition and its connection to decreased bee health when adequate forage isn’t available. Bob Curtis at the Almond Board of California, Dr. Ramesh Sagili at Oregon State University, Dr. Marla Spivak at the University of Minnesota, and Dr. Vincent Ricigliano at the USDA ARS all touched on the important role nutrition plays in the vigor, lifespan, and immunity of honey bees. I was also happy to hear the same message echoed in the keynote address made by Karen Ross, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. She spoke to the crucial role cover crops and hedgerows play in supporting healthy bee populations that are needed to maintain most of California’s $54 billion agriculture industry.
It is satisfying when policy makers, business owners, growers, researchers, beekeepers, and stewardship organizations all talk about the need for more diverse forage on the landscape. However, a greater sense of satisfaction is achieved when someone heeds the advice of experts and plants forage based on tested recommendations. David Fenn, Director of Operations for the fresh grape brand Sun World, and Sejal Patel, Project Manager with Sun World’s parent company Renewable Resource Group, are such two people. Sun World’s primary job is to grow delicious fresh grapes for domestic and international markets. In addition to bringing fruit to our tables, Sejal and David have also identified a secondary service Sun World can provide: land stewardship. They are taking honey bee health issues seriously by committing to enhance their vineyards with cover crops and hedgerows. Sun World management also values good soil health, water use efficiency, and erosion control. Both cover crops and hedgerows will help them achieve these sustainability goals.
Sejal contacted me in early 2017 to assist her in creating a plan to develop Sun World’s vineyards into a valuable food resource for bees. We both quickly learned our partnership had implications far beyond increasing honey bee forage. I learned about all of Sun World’s sustainability goals, and she learned cover crops and hedgerows do more than provide bee food. As 2017 comes to a close, I am happy to report in 2018 Sun World grapes will be grown among more than 100 acres of cover crops and 1,220 linear feet of hedgerows!
The Seeds for Bees seed mixes have been proven to work well in almond orchards. Along with avocados, cherries, prunes, and wine grapes, we now know that these mixes are a great resource for table grape growers as well. If improving bee and soil health is a goal you are trying to reach, the technical advice PAm provides can help you get there. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I wasn’t kidding, I really don’t get tired of talking about the benefits of forage!