CHICAGO — Pollinators are important due to their interaction with plants.

Pollination occurs in several ways, including with wind, water and self pollination.

“It also happens through animal assist and not just honey bees,” said Laurie Adams, executive director of the Pollinator Partnership. “It occurs through a variety of animal pollinators.”

“Seventy percent of all flowering plants rely on animals for their pollination, and the value of this is $217 billion,” said Adams at the American Seed Trade Association’s CSS 2013 and Seed Expo. “One out of every three bites of food comes to you from a pollinator.”

Pollinator Partnership is the largest organization in the world that deals exclusively with pollinator issues, Adams said.

“We do policy, education, research, restoration and conservation,” she explained. “We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and we work collaboratively for pollinators.”

Globally, Adams reported, there is a decline in pollinators.

“There are a variety of reasons — it’s not just pesticides,” she said.

“Particularly, it’s a loss of habitat — we’re losing land in production agriculture, and we’re losing land in habitat, as well,” she said. “They’re also suffering from a great deal of disease, parasite invasive species and climate change is difficult for pollinators.”

Pesticides will kill pollinators given the right dose or situation. And, Adams said, pesticides also will not kill pollinators given the proper use and right situation.

The Colony Collapse Disorder has caused bee die-offs.

“This has been identified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency in their reports as something that is a multi-factorial problem,” Adams said.

“Pesticides are particularly difficult to deal with because there are so many points of impact with pollinators,” she noted. “There are a variety of ways that pesticides provide residues and there are different forms of applications and different applicators.”

Seeking Answers

Policy regarding pesticides and pollinators is somewhat driven by science, Adams said.

“But we know science can be ambiguous and sometimes not as precise and clear director as we would like it to be,” she added.

“Policy is also driven by emotion and economics,” she said. “All these are factors you have to consider as you as you look at the pollinator landscape currently in the U.S. and across the globe.”

To reduce the impact on pollinators, Pollinator Partnership works with groups including regulatory agencies, manufacturers, certified applicators, farmers, homeowners and consumers.

“We have produced 33 guides that give recipes in all 48 lower states and Hawaii on how you can help pollinators,” Adams said.

“Our mission is to support the health of pollinators through constructive management with everyone,” she said. “We don’t expect our partners to agree with one another. We expect them to agree with what we’re trying to do.”

The view of pesticides by the Pollinator Partnership is to avoid pest problems in the first place.

“Then you need to meet the pest threshold, diagnosis the problem accurately, use IPM and only when these measures fail, carefully select a pesticide and application method,” Adams said. “That’s a different message than let’s get rid of pesticides.”

However, she said, that worked well before the use of prophylactic systemic pesticides.

“That solved some problems and potentially created others because the decision is made to use the pesticide before there is evidence of the problem,” she said. “Ninety percent of U.S. agriculture is in this system, so it’s a new world, and we’re looking at how we can deal with that new world.”

“We’ve found 134 different chemicals in bee colonies and 4.3 chemicals per bee,” she reported.

Corn’s Role

Although corn does not need animal pollinators to reproduce, Adams said, honey bees are attracted to corn pollen and they take it back to the hive.

The North American Pollinator Protection Campaign has provided 35 grants over the last five years focusing on bee health and a variety of problems, including genetics, nutrition, best practices, pathogens, parasites and pesticides.

The current issue involves the corn planting period.

One of these grants went to Christian Krupke, associate professor at Purdue University.

“He found the dust that was created by the lubricant inside the hopper of the planter was quite volatile,” Adams said. “That lubricant is used to insure uniform planting.”

“I compliment Bayer CropScience. They stepped forward and said let’s do something about this and, thus, the Corn Dust Research Consortium was born,” she said.

The consortium now includes a variety of stakeholders including the seed treatment industry, pesticide industry, farmers, equipment manufacturers and beekeepers.

In February 2013, a research project was awarded to three institutions — Iowa State University, The Ohio State University and the University of Guelph and the Grain Farmers of Ontario.

This research is focused on two questions: What are the foraging conditions around cornfields at planting time? And how does the new alternatives to current lubricants compare?

“Hopefully, by January, we’ll have some kind of report to help during corn planting, but this is only the first year,” Adams said. “We’ve received research funding for the second year from some of our partners.”

This issue is going to have to be addressed by everyone, she noted.

“There is no one thing we can do to solve this problem,” she said.

“We’re working in a way that is rare,” she added. “I’m eager to report the results.”

For more information about the Pollinator Partnership visit, www.pollinator.org.