The Oregon Bee Project is working towards measurement of improved pollinator health over time. This effort got a huge boost this week from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), a nonprofit established through bipartisan congressional support in the 2014 Farm Bill. A project led by Andony Melathopoulos of Oregon State University with help from partners at the Oregon Department of Agriculture and the Xerces Society received a $544,929 grant from FFAR’s Pollinator Health Fund to develop new tools for assessing the impact of the partners’ efforts on bee pollinator health.
“The Pollinator Health Fund couldn’t have come at a better time for the Oregon Bee Project,” Melathopoulos said. “The fund is going to be put straight to work training pesticide applicators, cultivating teams of volunteers to survey native bees and figuring out how we can measure bee pesticide exposure in working landscapes; the essential pieces we need for a robust pollinator health strategy.”
While many other states have plans for promoting pollinator health, Melathopoulos maintains that “[The Oregon Bee Project] is unique; it integrates state and local agencies, the extension service, motivated volunteers, innovative industries and diagnostic monitoring tools into an active, working strategy.”
Dr. Melathopoulos will be working alongside colleagues and partner organizations to build key elements of the Oregon Bee Project:
· Dr. Melathopoulos will develop new training resources for pesticide applicators and work with land-managers and beekeepers to develop Bee Protection Protocols,
· Dr. Ramesh Sagili will develop a strategy for measuring reductions in pesticide exposure in honey bee pollen,
· Dr. Chris Marshall from the Oregon State Arthropod Collection, will develop an interactive online map for two economically important wild groups of wild bees,
· Oregon Department of Agriculture’s Insect Pest Prevention and Management Program will partner on the Oregon Bee Atlas, an initiative to develop volunteer capacity to be able to track changes in wild bee populations over time,
· The Xerces Society’s partnership supports the Pacific Northwest Bumble Bee Atlas, a citizen science survey of the region’s bumble bees.
“Managed and native pollinators are vital to many crop production systems and the ecological resources that support them,” said Sally Rockey, executive director of FFAR. “The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research congratulates Dr. Melathopoulos and Oregon State University and looks forward to results that will inform science-based approaches to improving pollinator health.”
The grant from FFAR is being matched by Oregon Department of Agriculture and Oregon State University and by generous Oregon-based industry partners GloryBee, Central Oregon Seeds, and the Oregon State Beekeepers Association.
Oregon State University was the only institution to be awarded two grants in this round of the Pollinator Health Fund. Associate Professor Sandy DeBano at the Hermiston Agriculture Research and Extension Center received $321,127 to investigate the impact of livestock grazing, invasive weeds and the fires used to control those weeds on native bees inhabiting range and pasturelands.
FFAR established its Pollinator Health Fund in response to the agricultural threat posed by declining pollinator health. Insect pollinators contribute an estimated 24 billion dollars to the United States economy annually.