Posts tagged USDA

Conservation tour for women landowners

Women who own or manage farmland in three eastern Iowa counties – Johnson, Jones and Linn – are invited to participate in a free conservation tour on Wednesday, March 25, 2009. The tour is for women who are farm partners, sole owner-operators, or inheritors of any size farm.

 

The tour is a part of a conservation education program called “Women Caring for the Land,” which began with informational meetings in February in each of the three counties. All interested women are welcome to attend the tour, whether or not they attended the meetings. They will visit several farms in the three-county area that have implemented good conservation and resource management techniques on their land.

 

The group will meet at 9:30 a.m. at St. John’s Catholic Church, 212 7th St. SE, Mt. Vernon. Women may drive their own vehicles (carpooling is encouraged) or for those who prefer not to drive, a van will be provided. The tour will take several hours, with a lunch stop around noon at Gwen’s Restaurant, 119 W. Main St., Lisbon. Participants should bring money for lunch, and wear shoes that can get muddy.

 

For more information, contact project coordinator Laura Krouse of Mt. Vernon at 319-895-6924. This project is sponsored by Women, Food and Agriculture Network in partnership with USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), with funding from the McKnight Foundation. A final informational meeting will be held April 15; call Laura for more details.

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Attracting pollinators

Most people would rather keep bees at bay, but Steve Hanlin, entomologist with the US Department of Agriculture research station in Ames, Iowa, understands their value as pollinators. To Steve, bees and other pollinators have a multi-billion dollar impact on what we eat and wear.

Steve spoke at Sunday’s Honey Fest at the Indian Creek Nature Center. His mention of Osmia bees was met with a round of applause by some of the beekeepers in the audience. That type of bee, also known as the Mason bee,  does not sting.

  The USDA mostly uses honey bees for their pollination of heirloom crops, which are raised by staff in Ames, but Steve called the bumblebee the “best wild pollinator there is.” The cost of bumblebees is more prohibitive, so they’re not used as often by his group.

For people with apple orchards or other plants in need of pollination, Steve said it’s best to not spray weed beds and to not use a rototiller. Both destroy habitats where bees like to live.

Old mouse nests are an ideal spot for bumblebees, but encouraging mice to live nearby raises its own questions. Basically, bumblebees live in undisturbed sandy soil.

Steve said osmia bees can be attracted by placing cardboard straws in an empty Pringles can where the bees can live. Plastic straws don’t work, as the bees would suffocate. The cardboard straws are what mail-order bees are shipped in, he said. Another “bee house” can be seen in the photo above.

 As an aside, Steve said moths also pollinate, but only night-blooming plants.

Also, some types of cactus are endangered because their pollinators, bats, are declining in number.

Honeybees don’t pollinate trumpet-style flowers, he said, and while bumblebees make little “honey pots” Steve doubts that people who buy bumblebee honey are getting the real thing. The honey, produced in tiny quantities, would have to be extracted by micro-pipette, he said.

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