Farms in the United States are larger and have less nearby habitat to support than in the past, yet the need for pollinators has never been greater, said Kate MacFarland with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agroforestry Center.

In light of recent concern over pollinator decline, a memorandum was released by President Barack Obama earlier this year, titled, “Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Pollinators.” Since its release, USDA has taken steps to support pollinators.

Ongoing research by the U.S. Forest Service demonstrates that pollinator numbers can be increased through agroforestry, MacFarland said. Agroforestry is the intentional integration of trees and shrubs into crop and livestock-farming systems.

For producers of insect-pollinated crops, pollinator habitat and floral diversity on the farm can not only improve crop but reduce pest populations, while supporting farm production and conservation goals.

“Agroforestry practices can be managed to add more flowering plants and nesting habitat to agricultural or community landscapes,” MacFarland said. “Riparian forest buffers can include fruits and nuts like … hazelnuts, which both people and pollinators enjoy.

“Flowering trees can be added to silvopasture systems, supporting pollinators while providing shade for livestock and adding an additional income source.”

She said pollinators are also important to ginseng and other plants grown in the forest understory using forest farming methods.

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